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Clean energy stories of the year 2017: October – December

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As 2017 draws to a close, Clean Energy News looks back on what has been a considerably interesting year for the energy transition. In the fourth and final part of a series of articles running this week, we recap the best stories that broke in the last three months of 2017.

 

The sheer scale of the adoption of battery storage has been one of the most interesting stories to watch unfold in 2017, and Centrica has been one of the leading players. Fresh from starting the development of its 49MW battery at Roosecote, in November the power giant revealed plans to develop a mammoth 100MW battery in Ireland.

While plans are at a tentative stage – Centrica has yet to submit any planning applications, as far as our Solar & Storage Market Research team can tell – but the company did say it is earmarking the battery to compete in Ireland’s joint capacity market, which received state aid approval later that month.

Of course, battery storage hasn’t had it all its own way this year. The prospect of de-rating has loomed large and in early December government confirmed that batteries capable of discharging for 30 minutes – mainly impacting the favoured lithium-ion technology – would be de-rated by as much as 80%. Most developers would agree with the thinking behind the decision, but government’s handling of it has left a lot to be desired.

Car manufacturers have also been at the forefront of 2017’s battery storage revolution and in November Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) revealed its hand. Following in the footsteps of Nissan, JLR is to work alongside Connected Energy, the University of Warwick and Videre Global on a second-life battery research project, examining the potential for used EV batteries to be adopted for residential use.

Electric vehicles have also enjoyed a banner year in the UK, and the government appears all too keen to help them along. In late November chancellor Philip Hammond delivered his Budget for the forthcoming year, detailing a £400 million boost for EV charging infrastructure. That package - half public finance, half private - will look to significantly bolster the number of EV charge points in the UK and, most pertinently, ensure they are smart.

But if battery storage and EVs have enjoyed positive years, then energy suppliers have had things a little more difficult. Not only has government sought to enforce a price cap, but increasing competition has seen customers leave the Big Six in their droves. Npower in particular has struggled – parent company innogy pointed the finger well and truly at npower’s struggles when it issued a profit warning last week – and innogy’s patience now appears to have worn thin.

In early November it was confirmed that innogy was in talks with SSE to spin off its supply division and merge it with SSE’s, essentially whittling the Big Six down to a Big Five. No deal has yet been agreed and it remains unclear whether or not it would constitute a deal large enough to warrant a competition probe, but it’s the surest sign yet of the squeeze big power suppliers have been facing.

Centrica meanwhile has responded to its power struggles by throwing its weight – and financial clout – behind the energy transition. Centrica’s decentralised energy division is growing exponentially and in late November it announced an investment in LO3 Energy, the US blockchain start-up responsible for Brooklyn’s famous microgrid, under its Centrica Innovations ambition.  

 

You can view part one of our 2017 in review series covering the first three months of the year here; part two of the series, covering April through June, here; and part three, covering July through September, here

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