Time running out for UK electricity storage investment

The Lords Science & Technology Committee report into long-term energy storage has a clear message to Downing Street.

The investigation looks at the projected needs of Britain as it moves to clean, renewable energy, leading to a rocket in demand for electricity as fossil fuels, particularly gas, are gradually abandoned. 

‘Both electricity supply and demand will be much larger and more variable in the future. Whilst renewables deliver increased energy security by removing dependence on imported fossil fuels, long-duration energy storage will be needed to maintain the electricity supply, for example at times when there are prolonged periods of low wind generation,’ the report explained. ‘The long-duration storage replaces fossil fuels as back-up stores of energy.

‘It is distressing to see that the Government seems to lack a clear plan for energy supply risks and indeed is still deliberating over investment in storage to prevent future crises,’ it continued. ‘Long-duration storage facilities can take seven to 10 years to build and require up-front capital investment. Developers need a clear business case, supporting infrastructure such as grid connections, and financial support in order to invest. The Government has a goal to decarbonise the electricity system by 2035. If long-duration storage is to scale up in time, it is clear that construction needs to start as soon as possible.’

Incumbent chair of the Carbon Trust and the Henry Royce Institute, Baroness Brown of Cambridge, has published an op-ed in the journal Business Green, emphasising how serious the situation is. ‘The UK is at risk of sleepwalking into an energy system that is chaotic and unplanned,’ she said. Meanwhile, the Committee summarised its own report as a warning to Government ‘that urgent action is needed or energy security and net zero will be at risk’.

The report has several key recommendations. These include:

*Commitment to a strategic electricity reserve, proposed at 25 TWh per year by 2040

*Urgently make key decisions and coordinate the delivery of an energy system plan

*Set an explicit minimum target for energy storage

*Set out the details of its long-duration storage business model

*Support no-regrets investments for hydrogen and clarify its intended role.

*Act with urgency and reduce timelines

*Engage and communicate

‘Since 2023, the Government has had a Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. Long-duration energy storage is critical for ensuring the UK can have both: it must be a key priority for the Department. But storage needs urgent support in order to scale up in time. Major decisions about future energy infrastructure must be made and coordinated effort is needed to unlock investment in commercial energy storage and to ensure a strategic reserve is delivered,’ the report concludes. ‘Time is running out for the UK to secure that brighter future. We urge the Government to take action now.’

Read the report in full here.

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