We sat down with Vincent de Rul, Director of Energy Solutions at EDF, based in the UK, to discuss the long term opportunities that battery storage and related technologies represent for energy flexibility and the future of renewable energy.
In terms of our energy mix and renewables in particular, do you think the UK is doing enough to help combat climate change?
Vincent de Rul: The UK is getting upwards of 30% of its energy from renewable sources, so it’s very satisfying if you consider where we started a few years ago. But we need to find a way to push a little bit further in terms of reducing carbon, we firmly believe that nuclear has a key role in play in decarbonising the energy mix. At the same time, we also need to make sure that we are able to have grids and an energy economy which supports the integration of more renewables on the network.
At EDF you're promoting the role flexibility in our low-carbon future. Are businesses and organisations offered enough support so that they can actually be flexible and efficient with their energy use?
VDR: As a concept, flexibility is something that businesses will understand. But the challenge is how you start doing it. It's a business transformation question in some ways and it has a positive impact on the bottom line, as well as on their contribution to the Net Zero agenda. Here at EDF we can help businesses have more control over their energy and open up opportunities for new profit streams, new sustainability goals, and new ways to drive growth.
So flexibility can be great for business, saving them money, but also great for the environment as well. Can you tell us more about the technology behind these solutions?
VDR: In terms of flexibility, the obvious technology is battery storage. Battery energy storage is one way to help stabilise the grid and to support the integration of more renewables on the grid. It helps minimise some of the challenges we have with renewable energy; for example when you generate renewable energy, it’s not necessarily at a time when you need to use that energy. So it’s useful having the capability to store this energy instead of wasting it.
Battery storage also allows businesses to access remuneration with our flexibility optimisation trading platform called PowerShift. Powershift enables you to decide which of those storage assets to flex and make available to the grid at a given time, and choose how much of their flexible capacity you are happy to trade - and at what price.
Tell us a little bit more about this commercial battery storage system that you've been working with Nissan on, and how that's helping to balance the grid?
VDR: I think it's a very good example of a strong circular economy approach because Nissan is combining second-life batteries from cars to create a bigger battery. This then becomes an asset that EDF, with the PowerShift platform, can optimise, charge and discharge depending on the grid request and wholesale markets in order to create additional value for the business and for the grid.
Innovative EV charging technologies such as Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) are also helping to balance the grid. What is V2G and how does this it help achieve our shared goals?
VDR: Just like the battery storage solution that I explained earlier, the same applies to the battery in an electric car. When operating in V2G, you have a charge point that is able to have energy flowing in both directions. V2G technology enables access to energy stored within the car battery. Thanks to V2G, it is possible to charge and discharge the battery in the car depending on what the grid is in need of, or the price opportunity on the energy market.
The potential for V2G is huge. In theory EVs could eventually form, as a collective entity, the largest energy storage system of all.
Now, you mentioned PowerShift. Can you give us some more detail on how the platform works and how it rewards businesses?
VDR: So, PowerShift takes information from the assets on the site of a customer, from the grid’s requests in terms of stability, frequency regulation and from the price signals on the wholesale market. Initially developed based on clever algorithms, and now using AI, PowerShift optimises the energy consumption of the assets on site in order to be able to contribute to grid schemes such as the established flexibility markets, with a close eye on emerging markets too. The customer still retains control and can decide if and when they want to scale up or scale down energy consumption, depending on the possibility of access to remuneration, and this again, is managed by the PowerShift platform.
Could you give us examples of this working in practice?
VDR: Last year we partnered with Upside Energy and Anesco to optimise a combined 10MW of solar and 6 MW battery assets at Clayhill solar farm. It's actually the UK's first unsubsidised solar farm! We are using Powershift to enhance the efficiency and profitability of the assets, securing contracts with grid operators and generating revenue through direct access to wholesale markets. We’ve been able to offer Anesco a guaranteed ‘floor price’ for this project, which is a first. Projects like this are crucial if we want to balance renewable generation on the grid and work towards a low carbon energy mix - and a Net Zero economy.
Finally, how does the future of energy storage look?
VDR: We’re going from an initial base of 0.34GW of installed battery storage capacity in 2012 and 2013, to an estimated 40GW by 2022. This market growth is due in part to the falling costs of energy storage technologies. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) recently estimated that the cost of battery storage could fall by up to 66% by 2030 so these technologies are becoming more affordable.
It is becoming clear that energy storage is no longer optional for the UK if we are going to meet our Net Zero targets by 2050. It looks like the markets and industry are recognising this too.
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