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Current±’s 2018 Review: Solar records fall and energy storage investment soars in May and June

Image: Getty.

Image: Getty.

Our re-cap of the year continues with the biggest stories in May and June, as solar PV generation records tumble in the UK’s glorious sunshine and investment in energy storage technologies ramps up.

Solar records tumble in the sunshine

Much of the UK basked in a spring heatwave in May, with National Grid confirming that the UK’s fleet of solar generators produced a peak output of 9.42GW, nudging past the previous record of 9.37GW.

Notably, the generation record – set on Monday 14 May – was also enough to see solar contribute around 25% of the UK’s power demand at midday, enough for it to become the country’s second-largest power source at that time of day. Furthermore, when combined with wind and nuclear generation – low-carbon sources made up more than half of the UK’s entire power demand.

That record came around a fortnight after solar PV spent six hours of the May bank holiday as the country’s most dominant power source, providing yet another indication as to the pace of change in the power sector.

Battery storage on the move as Shell, Pivot Power announce investments

And it wasn’t just solar PV generation that was up. Over the course of two days in May, there were two hugely interesting developments in energy storage which proved how the technology was becoming an increasing destination of investment.

It started with Pivot Power breaking cover with a plan to deploy more than 2GW of battery storage projects to the national grid as part of a £1.6 billion investment programme tying the projects to rapid electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

The developer confirmed that it intended to deploy at around 10 sites over the next 18 months, backed by investment vehicle Downing LLP, with formal planning applications having since been filed. Pivot Power’s actions stand to be one of the must-watch stories of 2019.

A day later global energy giant Shell announced that it had participated in a €60 million (£52.6 million) funding round of German manufacturer sonnen, in what represented yet another scaling up of its interest in distributed energy.

However the news could have far bigger implementations for sonnen’s residential business moving forward, as Shell’s energy solutions VP Brian Davis indicating there could be synergies between sonnen and Shell’s own energy supply business.

“This investment enables us to combine Shell’s power business activities with sonnen’s high quality, innovative products and business model to enhance our consumer energy offerings. This is in line with our strategy to partner with leading companies to deliver more and cleaner energy solutions to our customers,” he said.

‘The kilowatt hour must die’

There were too stark words of warning for the supply sector, with industry representatives concluding that the nascent ‘energy as a service’ model was the future and that for it to take hold, the “kilowatt hour must die”.

“You can't sell commodities which every new policy says you want [consumers] to buy less of and use more differently. We've got to change that,” Tim Rotheray, chief executive at the Association for Decentralised Energy, told a conference theatre in May.

It has proven to be a particular theme of interest this year, right the way through to some rather franks discussions about the role Ofgem will play in an energy market of the future and the proposed merger of the consumer-facing units of Ofgem, Ofcom and Ofwat to create a so-called ‘Ofbundle’ regulator, with some in the industry convinced that the future lies in bundled services.

Part one of our re-cap of 2018, featuring the top stories from January and February, can be read here.

Part two of our re-cap of 2018, featuring the top stories from March and April, can be read here.


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