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UK puts energy storage central to new industrial strategy

Image: Renewable Energy Systems (RES).
Energy storage has been placed at the heart of the UK’s new industrial strategy as the government attempts to position itself at the forefront of research and innovation in the global market.

Following months of anticipation, the government’s Modern Industrial Strategy released yesterday (23 January) reveals the government’s focus on battery technology due to its potential to support smart energy systems and the automotive sector.

Advances in both these areas have been named within the ten ‘pillars’ of the strategy and according to the 132-page document, drawing together battery, energy storage and grid technologies “is sensible because step-changes in innovation will likely involve all of them”.

To this end, the government has already engaged Sir Mark Walport, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, to consider the case for a new research institution as a focal point for work on battery technology, energy storage and grid technology.

This report is due in early 2017 and if approved, the new institution would be used to build on existing work currently being done by universities and companies across the UK.

Industry groups' 'warm welcome' for strategy

The proposals for such a research facility have been welcomed by James Court, head of policy & external affairs at the Renewable Energy Association, who said: “Many elements of this strategy are encouraging, we welcome the interest in setting up an energy storage research institution and strengthening links between industry and academia so that products that are researched in the UK are commercialised in the UK.”

Paul Barwell, cheif executive of the Solar Trade Association (STA), added: "The strong political support for storage in this strategy is warmly welcome." 

It remains unclear what the eventual goal of the facility’s work would be, particularly with technological R&D and advances already delivered by the private sector companies in Germany, the US and Japan.

However, the government’s document has committed it to a programme of research and innovation in energy storage and other smart technologies.  This is intended to align with work already underway to design a smart grid and roll-out public charging points for electric vehicles and smart meters to homes and commercial premises.

“Bringing together these separate strands shows how we can position the UK to benefit from technological transformation that will be in demand across the world,” the document states.

The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund will also be used to support storage as well as other clean energy technologies like demand side response.

The green paper will remain open to responses until 17 April, while Sir Walport’s assessment of the new battery technology research institution will be released later this quarter. A new report from Solar Media's market research and intelligence team found that the UK has a pipeline of over 200 large-scale or commercial and industrial (C&I) storage projects totalling 2.3GW from early to late stages of development.

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