UK to boost its energy storage capabilities

The first phase of a £246m investment into the UK’s battery technology development has been launched.
Published: Tue 25 Jul 2017

Launched by the country’s Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark, the Faraday Challenge, a four-year investment round, involves a series of competitions that aim to boost the research and development of battery storage as well as improve accessibility and affordability. The competitions are divided into three themes: research, innovation and scale up.

An Advisory Board – chaired by Professor Richard Parry-Jones – will be established “to ensure the coherence and impact of the challenge”.

The first element, valued at £45m, will be led by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to create a Battery Institute, with the most promising research completed by the Institute moved closer to market through industrial collaborations led by Innovate UK.

The Advanced Propulsion Centre will work alongside the automotive sector to identify the best proposition for a new open access national Battery Manufacturing Development facility.

The Faraday Challenge forms part of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Industrial Strategy which was launched in January of this year.

Creating a flexible Britain with batteries

In a separate announcement, Ofgem is expected to outline new rules for people across the UK to generate and store their own electricity to help reduce bills. The new rules will help consumers save anywhere between £17bn and £40bn by 2050 with the development of a “smarter, more flexible and user-friendly energy system”, according to the regulator.

Ofgem has said in the past that innovative technologies and services, including the use of batteries in homes, businesses and networks have the potential to generate “substantial savings”.

Among the first to benefit from the rule changes will be those who have installed solar panels and battery storage. Currently, these people are charged tariffs when they import electricity into their home or export it back to the grid. The government has recognised that this scenario is probably deterring people from using their power in a more flexible way which has the potential to create benefits for everyone.

The new plan will see the accumulation by traders of energy savings of millions of people and firms. Instead of predicting peak demand and building power stations to meet it, energy managers will now be able to trade in Negawatts. 

Nicola Shaw, executive director of National Grid, previously told BBC News that between 30% and 50% of fluctuations on the grid could be smoothed by households and businesses adjusting their demand at peak times.

Professor Philip Nelson, EPSRC Chief Executive said: “Batteries will form a cornerstone of a low carbon economy, whether in cars, aircraft, consumer electronics, district or grid storage. To deliver the UK’s low carbon economy, we must consolidate and grow our capabilities in novel battery technology.”

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