“This is the most exciting area within the energy sphere and it’s totally transforming the way we interact with the grid.” – Jimmy Aldridge, Research Fellow at the UK Institute of Public Policy Research
“Energy storage systems are potentially revolutionary technologies – just imagine how much the energy system will change if we’re able to manage supply and demand better by storing energy cost-effectively” – Greg Barker, Energy and Climate Change Minister
Experts are pretty excited by the potential of energy storage systems. What does this mean for you, the consumer?
Currently, in the UK, approximately a third of all energy consumption is electricity usage. The demand for electricity, as the UK moves towards a low carbon economy, is estimated to increase six-fold by 2050 according to the Government. This is due to demand for household heating and electric vehicles dramatically increasing.
What will energy storage do to help?
Energy storage works by storing excess energy during low demand times and using it later at high demand times. This means that the electricity grid runs at an average, base load rather than its peak load, which can help to reduce the risk of electricity cuts as demand rises above the current grid peak capacity.
Not only does this stabilise the grid and help it run more efficiently, it is also cost effective. By 2050, Imperial College London’s Energy Futures Lab estimates that ‘energy storage technologies could generate saving of £10 billion a year’ in the UK.
Similarly, Greg Barker states that ‘storing energy…has the potential to save the energy system over £4 billion by 2050’.
Meaning more money in the piggy bank for a rainy day.
At this relatively early stage, the question is will it be small scale domestic storage or large scale industrial storage that will take off first?
Electric vehicle ‘rockstars’, Tesla have recently announced their plans for a home battery – the Powerwall. Futuristic in looks and thinking, the Powerwall is currently quite a pricey investment ($3,500 for a 10kWh unit) but this is likely to come down in price as home energy storage becomes more normal.
Here in the UK, start up company powervault have partly crowd-funded their domestic battery pack, which is the size of a washing machine and will set you back around $3,750 (£2,500). This suggests that the domestic market is keen to be more energy efficient and have more control over their own usage.
This isn’t to say the government and large companies haven’t got plans for large scale industrial and grid storage. The issue perhaps with this is that, well, it is larger and therefore affects a wider infrastructure and is more costly. More conservative in their approach, with pilot schemes currently, energy companies are likely to take smaller steps to reduce risks and complications down the line.
In the short-term, I believe that home energy storage will become of mainstream interest as people want to cut their energy bills. However, long-term, larger scale energy storage is something that will benefit individuals and energy companies.