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SSE calls for long-duration electricity storage policy support following security strategy

The Coire Glas pumped hydro development would sit on the shores of Loch Lochy near Invergarry. Image: SSE Renewables.

The Coire Glas pumped hydro development would sit on the shores of Loch Lochy near Invergarry. Image: SSE Renewables.

SSE has renewed its call for policy support for long-duration electricity storage (LDES), following the government’s British Energy Security Strategy.

Unveiled last week in response to the impact of the Russian invasion in Ukraine and the wider energy crisis, the strategy said that the government will ensure a more flexible, efficient system for both electricity generators and users.

One of the key steps to achieving this is by ensuring there is sufficient large-scale LDES to balance the overall system by developing appropriate policy to enable investment, the strategy stated.

A recent report from Aurora found that Britain may need up to 24GW of LDES by 2035 to effectively manage the intermittency of renewable generation as the system becomes net zero.

In July 2021, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) issued a call for evidence on how to enable LDES, given the barriers the “essential” source of low carbon flexibility still faces.

Since then, a number of reports have pointed to the potential for a cap and floor mechanism, including from Aurora and KPMG. In March, energy storage representatives and energy minister Greg Hands met to discuss how to unlock investment in energy storage technologies, including a key focus on the potential of a cap and floor mechanism.

SSE – which was one of the companies that attended the meeting – has again reiterated its plans to develop a £1 billion-plus pumped hydro electricity storage facility, but highlighted that a policy and market framework that appropriately values LDES technologies will be critical to the deployment of such systems at the levels needed for net zero.

"We’re pleased that government has recognised within the Energy Strategy the important role that technologies like pumped storage will play in enabling a net zero electricity system by providing critical flexibility and backup,” said Finlay McCutcheon, SSE Renewables’ director of onshore Europe.

“The next step is for the government to make a decision on policy support following their call for evidence on long-duration energy storage on addressing barriers to LDES deployment. The swift introduction of an adapted cap and floor mechanism this year could unlock investment into Coire Glas, which could be operational by the end of the decade."

SSE Renewables’ Coire Glas project is a 1.5GW/30GWh pumped hydro project in the Highlands of Scotland. It would be located on the shores of Loch Lochy near Invergarry, and could be constructed by 2030.

The company recently appointed mining and tunnelling company STRABAG UK to undertake exploratory works at the site, which are scheduled to take place over the summer and will be used to inform the projects final design.

SSE said that the project could be the first pumped hydro project developed in Britain in 30 years, and would double the country’s current amount of electricity storage capacity.

As one of the oldest and most established forms of LDES, a number of other companies are also eying pumped hydro developments, including the ILI Group, which has three pumped hydro projects in development including one on Loch Ness, and Drax, which is planning to expand its Cruachan site in Scotland to 1.04GW.

Along with pumped hydro, a number of other LDES solutions are being considered in Britain, and in February BEIS unveiled nearly £7 million in funding to help “turbocharge” the sector. This funding is being used to support 24 projects, helping to fund demonstration or commercialisation of LDES solutions.

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