Energy system modernisation plans unveiled

A much greater role for battery storage is a central part of plans unveiled by the Government and Ofgem to give businesses and homes more control over their energy.

Ministers and the regulator said the innovative plans will “transform how homes and businesses store and use energy” and will deliver a smarter, more flexible energy system by removing barriers to smart and battery technology, reducing costs for consumers.

Key moves aimed at enabling faster rollout of storage include moves to legally define storage in primary legislation, changes to the planning system and grid connection process to make it easier for facilities to be developed and ending the final consumption charges storage facilities currently pay.

There are also plans to set up a “battery institute” to help companies developing nascent battery technologies.

Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said:

“Upgrading our energy system to make sure it is fit for the future is a key part of our Industrial Strategy. A smarter energy system will create opportunities to reduce energy costs, increase productivity and put UK businesses in a leading position to export smart energy technology and services to the rest of the world.”

Clark said the plan also recognises the role that energy storage can play in a smart energy grid and the opportunities presented by falling costs of battery technologies designed to store surplus energy.

Andrew Wright, Senior Partner, Energy Systems, Ofgem, said:“We want to open the door to new technologies and services so that they can help to reduce bills for consumers in the long term. It is vital that we get the changes in place as there is potential for a smarter system to save consumers billions between now and 2050”.

Major investment in battery technology

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) also announced the launch of the first phase of a £246m investment into battery technology to ensure the UK builds on its strengths and leads the world in the design, development and manufacture of electric batteries.

Known as the Faraday Challenge, the four-year investment round is a key part of the government’s Industrial Strategy. It will deliver a coordinated programme of competitions that will aim to boost both the research and development of expertise in battery technology.

An overarching Faraday Challenge Advisory Board will be established to ensure the coherence and impact of the Challenge. The Board will be chaired by Professor Richard Parry-Jones, a senior engineering leader with many decades of senior automotive industry experience and recently chaired the UK Automotive Council for six years.

‘Rules and regulations need updating’

The changes were broadly welcomed by the industry but James Court, Head of Policy and External Affairs at the Renewable Energy Association also said for the “handbrakes to be taken off” battery storage, rules and regulations made in a different age needed updated for these new technologies and approaches, coupled with a renewed commitment to renewables.

“The market is changing quickly, yet reversals in policy have seen the UK slowing in areas such as solar and onshore wind which are now cheaper than fossil fuels. The government needs to remember that the success of batteries, renewables and smart technologies are all interlinked.”

Lawrence Slade chief executive of Energy UK said the plans “will create a level playing field for all technologies, which will drive innovation and provide an appropriate regulatory framework for battery storage and development”.

“The UK energy sector remains resolute in its commitment to delivering a smarter and more flexible energy system in a consumer-focused market, where competition drives innovation,” he said.

"We believe energy efficiency should be a national priority and look forward to the publication of the Government’s Clean Growth Plan in the Autumn and its Industrial Strategy, including a clear strategy on heat and transport to achieve cost-effective decarbonisation that works for all consumers.”

> Read more about the plans here

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