April 02, 2020
Pandemic impact underlines the need for more energy storage
Professor Brian Sturgess

The importance of the role which energy storage can play in providing energy security across the power delivery network, has been brought home as households and those business and institutions still operating in Britain are threatened by the risk of power blackouts as a result of the corona virus pandemic. UK Power Networks, which owns and maintains the electricity cables to three million homes in the South East, the East of England and London, has written to customers on its vulnerable register. The contents of the letter reported in the Daily Telegraph, raises concerns for those on the list which includes pensioners, those with children under five in the house, and people with disabilities and chronic illnesses. A blackout has implications for local businesses supplying essential services, for homes with refrigerated food and of course, for the NHS.

In an update to customers on its website, UK Power Networks says it's continuing all essential work, including fixing electrical faults, but it is postponing lower priority work on electricity cables and substations. Electricity North West and Western Power Distribution also say they are prepared to deal with blackouts, although they are currently only carrying out essential work. The lockdown has meant many projects have had to be paused for the protection of the workforce. There is also likely to be challenges with the supply of many components, as supply chains across the world have been disrupted and logistics complicated.

The longer term COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on generation, demand and flexibility remains uncertain, but battery storage can provide the necessary flexibility needed to maintain the supply of power:

A key factor is if the lockdown measures continue into the summer, the increase in residential demand from home working is likely to be offset by falling commercial and industrial demand. If summer demand falls to historically low levels, renewable generation could be constrained to manage grid stability. The need for the flexibility that only storage can bring will occur if as a result of COVID-19 demand falls below the level of solar, wind and nuclear generation. Storage provides flexibility which is local and increasingly short term and responsive.

Investment in the provision of grid connected battery energy storage systems (BESS), has been much discussed, but little has been invested, principally because of the lack of clear direction on the revenue streams available to these vital installations, and therefore, whether or how those investors would get a return on their capital.

There is ubiquitous energy sector consensus that in order to achieve a (without coal and, eventually without any fossil Fuel support) a reliable Green energy powered national energy supply, the National Grid, and it’s associated network operators (UKPN et al), must have strategic and manifold Battery Energy Storage Systems in place across the country. 

This nationwide, but distributed, system of battery storage can make Green Energy an ‘on demand’ resource, replacing its current status of ‘only when available’, and therefore enabling us as a nation, to take the next significant step towards a fossil free energy supply.

To make this happen we need clear guidance on energy tariffs, and a stable regulatory environment, this will give clarity on the vital role of Battery Energy Storage Systems and their associated revenues and will release the pent-up tide of investment looking for a home in the Green Energy utilities space.

 

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