Today’s funding and R&D announcements by business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS) secretary Greg Clark have been welcomed as a “fantastic move” towards a modern, smart and flexible energy system.
Almost £250 million is to be deployed under the Faraday Challenge, which will see funding competitions carried out over four years in research and development, innovation in commercial applications and scalability of production.
While the government has long stated its support for the development of battery storage technology in the UK, the industry has been held back by a lack of policy development and central government funding. Today’s announcements by Clark have been welcomed as a sign that progress will now be made in earnest.
Juliet Davenport, chief executive of renewable energy company Good Energy, said: “This is a fantastic move by government and an exciting moment for the UK’s renewables industry. To deliver the low carbon economy of the future we have to embrace a new, smart energy system and battery technology will be at the heart of that.
“Backing innovation in energy storage, as well as more support for offshore wind projects and electric vehicles, will not only attract investment into the UK, create new jobs and increase export opportunities, it will also make sure we have a healthy and greener economy and environment. The move to a 100% renewable future is possible.”
While the government’s primary goal is to see batteries developed for the UK’s electric automotive industry, storage is expected to play a significant role in the rapid changes underway in the energy system. The technology’s ability to manage increasing levels of renewable energy from wind and solar assets combined with its smart technology capabilities is already seeing it deployed in various regions.
UK Power Networks, the UK’s largest electricity distribution operator, recently set out its vision for the future through its DSO transition plan which is intended to enable customers to benefit from new technologies including generating, storing and selling their own electricity. Basil Scarsella, chief executive of UKPN, said today’s news of cooperation across all industry will help to manage this transition for the benefit of the country.
“We are on the verge of a change as significant for electricity as the advent of broadband was for telecommunications. We are already transforming our networks to be smarter and more flexible, and are currently consulting on our vision for the smart grid of the future. Working together with Government, the regulator, academia and other stakeholders we believe this transformation will unlock significant benefits for consumers,” he said.
Scott McGregor, chief executive of flow machines manufacturer redT energy, agreed: “We welcome today’s announcement by BEIS and believe the Faraday Challenge has the potential to be the catalyst the UK renewables market needs to ensure greater adoption of energy storage technologies.
“It is vital that industrial-scale energy storage machines are looked at as a serious low cost way to decarbonise the UK economy and support the grid. The UK has an abundance of world leading talent and technological know-how when it comes to energy storage technologies, so the time to utilise this resource to solve UK domestic energy security as well as build our technology manufacturing export sector is now.”
The announcement has also been welcomed by Greenpeace’s head of energy Hannah Martin, who said: “Today’s announcement is a sign of the modern, smart and flexible energy system we are moving towards. Innovation in battery technology will support the electric vehicle revolution, tackling lethal air pollution, and complementing renewables and energy efficiency.”
However, the funding unveiled today under the Faraday Challenge does not solve the regulatory hurdles that have slowed the growth of the UK’s energy storage market.
While welcoming some elements of today’s announcements, particularly the launch of a battery institute, the Renewable Energy Association’s head of policy and external affairs James Court said much more was needed.
“The UK is among the global leaders for battery technology, but for the handbrakes to be taken off we need to see the rules and regulations made in a different age 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.”