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Energy Storage Summit 2019: Exclusive Big Topic interviews in London

Following February’s excellent Energy Storage Summit at London’s Victoria Park Plaza hotel and hosted by our publisher Solar Media, here’s a short series of videos posing some of the big questions around energy storage, renewables, climate change, business and the industry, and more.

Reporter Alice Grundy put representatives of National Grid, Zenobe Energy, Kiwi Power and Northern Powergrid on the spot and the answers we got were insightful, candid and varied. While the show and the majority of its content leans towards its UK setting, there are no doubt lessons to be learned and exchanged internationally too and our interviewees referred in many cases to both the local and the bigger picture. 

We asked them:

1. What are some of the most exciting recent developments you’ve seen in the industry?

2. How can we ensure that energy storage and renewable energy are given a fair chance to contribute to decarbonisation and the creation of a sustainable green economy?

3. What are the biggest challenges faced by energy storage and the wider clean energy industries - and what are the best ways to overcome them?

Our interviewees:

Hedd Roberts, Head of Customer Solutions, National Grid - providing a transmission network and system-wide view.

Steve Meersman, Founder, Zenobe Energy - a view from a developer and financier of UK energy storage projects 

Quentin Scrimshire, Head of Energy Storage, Kiwi Power - one of the UK’s most aggressively forward-looking aggregators and demand response providers

Andrew McKenna, Commercial Development Manager, Northern Powergrid - with an industry-facing view from one of the country’s main distribution network operators (DNOs)

QUESTION 1: What are some of the most exciting recent developments you’ve seen in the industry?

National Grid’s Head of Customer Solutions, Hedd Roberts went up to bat first, and gives a network’s-eye view of both the opportunities opening up and challenges the UK faces. The rise of solar has been more rapid than the network organisation had expected and Roberts said that National Grid is keen to help storage projects get connected.

Steve Meersman says the industry itself has woken up and realised that there is no ‘silver bullet’ business model for energy storage. Instead, what will make it work is a combination of co-location with renewables and grid services, opportunities to trade energy or save energy costs, “bringing all of these things together", the Zenobe Energy founder says.

Using a launch of Kiwi Power’s own management and analytics platform as his soapbox, the company’s head of energy storage, Quentin Scrimshire, says that new technology to optimise and control energy storage is the single most exciting recent step forward in his eyes.

Northern Powergrid commercial development manager Andrew McKenna says that the recent evolution of grid services and therefore the overall change in market dynamics over the next 12 to 18 months going forwards will be an exciting space to watch. 

QUESTION 2: How can we ensure that energy storage and renewable energy are given a fair chance to contribute to decarbonisation and the creation of a sustainable green economy?

Hedd Roberts: “The rules of the game in the UK should reflect the different characteristics of different technologies”.

Steve Meersman argues that there are multiple components to this question and the key is to balance long-term electric system reliability aims with short term questions over economics.

While Quentin Scrimshire completely agrees that a lack of certainty persists over many topics, he also believes the tough reality is that “the opportunity is going to keep on switching. if you’re going to jump on this journey, you need to come to terms with the fact that its going to keep on changing.”

Andrew Mckenna’s view, plain and simple is that “the views of all stakeholders should be taken in to consideration …and it should be done collaboratively,” before the DNO representative elaborates further on what this means.

QUESTION 3: What are the biggest challenges faced by energy storage and the wider clean energy industries - and what are the best ways to overcome them?

National Grid’s Hedd Roberts: “Access to transmission - getting connected has been a big issue, getting land has been a big issue. We’re looking at how storage can reduce constraints on our networks - so there could be future revenue streams there.”

Steve Meersman of Zenobe talks about creating a stable investment environment for investors when “so many things are happening at the same time,” from regulators trying to adapt to technology, to network operators trying to adapt to their new role in managing the network as it becomes ever more distributed.

Everything is getting more complex, Kiwi Power’s Quentin Scrimshire says, with batteries performing more combined, or ’stacked’ revenue services than ever. Control and dispatch is even more important than before, as is controlling operating expenditure.

The most exciting thing that’s on the horizon is the deployment of electric vehicles, McKenna says, adding that a look at best practises in other markets where this is already happening in Europe and elsewhere would be a great way to push forward.

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