UK Roadmap

Energy Storage Research & Innovation

Energy storage will be an important component of future energy systems. The aim of this roadmap is to assess its role in the UK’s transition to net-zero, and to identify the contribution of research and innovation to meeting the deployment challenges.

Start Roadmap + Expert Input / Glossary

The Supergen Energy Storage Network+ is an integrated, forward-looking platform that supports, nurtures the expertise of the energy storage community, disseminating it through academia, industry, and policy, at a particularly important time when decisions on future funding and research strategy are still being resolved. The Network is supported by the EPSRC through grant EP/S032622/1.

This roadmap was prepared by Daniel Murrant[1], Jonathan Radcliffe and Amruta Joshi, from the Energy Systems and Policy Analysis Group, University of Birmingham, also with the previous support from Energy SUPERSTORE through grant EP/L019469/1.

Thanks to all those who contributed to this Roadmap in particular those who reviewed technical sections of the document and those who participated in the associated workshop. Citation: Radcliffe, J, Murrant, D, & Joshi, A (2020) UK Roadmap for Energy Storage Research and Innovation, University of Birmingham, UK.

Summary & Recommendations

Energy storage can play a critical role in the transition to a low-carbon energy system. The precise scale and nature of this role will depend on technological, system and policy developments. However, there is a well-defined need for measures that provide energy system reliability and resilience across timescales, to meet demands for power, heat and transport. The challenges will shift through the 2020s to the provision of GW-scale capacity, to cover days of demand for electricity; and then to weeks or months of TW-scale demand for heat.

New electrical and thermal energy storage technologies are being rapidly developed, with applications across scales: on the demand-side in vehicles and buildings; alongside generation, before or after conversion to electricity; on distribution and transmissions networks. Technology costs are declining and the system value will rise, so the key issue is in the timing: accelerated technological innovation coupled with favourable markets will allow energy storage to realise its value, to benefit the UK, and global, energy systems. If this value can be accessed, the technologies could be scaled-up within years. However, it will be crucial to take an integrated approach that considers both the energy service demands for power, heat and transport, and the policy and market framework in which they sit.

Despite some uncertainties, there is reasonable confidence in key features of the next 10 – 15 years, when energy storage can be employed:

  • Currently, the growth in variable RES generation is increasing the need for ancillary services to maintain network stability. A number of energy storage technologies can provide these services, with electrochemical batteries now competitive in some markets, such as frequency response and short term system capacity..

  • During the early 2020s, there is likely to be a continued increase in large-scale generation from variable RES that displaces fossil fuel generation, though there are uncertainties around the levels of firm and baseload capacity. Increased distributed generation and a growing up-take of EVs will drive a need for more flexibility in the system, especially at a local scale.

    Energy storage at GW-scale will have the opportunity to provide intra-day peak shifting and inter-day load levelling to maximise the utilisation of available generation capacity on existing networks. Energy storage facilities could be distributed and aggregated to meet local and national needs. Additionally, batteries will increasingly be used for EV applications that could be integrated into the energy system to provide flexibility, if technical and policy/regulatory measures are in place.

  • Through the mid – late 2020s and into the 2030s, the energy system will transform beyond the electricity sector. Decarbonisation of heat will be required to meet climate change targets, though there is not yet a clear technological pathway for achieving this, with heat pumps, district heating, low-carbon gas or a combination of these technologies all possible options. Levels of flexible, and fossil-fuel based, electricity generation will decrease unless Carbon Capture and Storage technologies can be deployed. Transport decarbonisation will continue and broaden to encompass transport modes other than just cars although the technological pathway for other transport modes is uncertain with options including electrochemical batteries, fuel cells and low-carbon gas.

The potential role for system-level large-scale electrical energy storage is likely to grow, in centralised facilities and aggregated across distributed locations. Heat decarbonisation will provide opportunities for thermal energy storage in buildings or with heat networks. The variation in demand and supply of different energy services and vectors, between winter and summer, may exacerbate and bring seasonal storage to the fore. This could be provided by some electrical or thermal energy storage technologies, or hydrogen. Decarbonisation of the wider transport sector may also present opportunities for energy storage technologies, for example hydrogen/fuel-cells or novel electrochemical batteries for HGVs, marine and aircraft.

  • Some specific markets for energy storage have emerged, and technology innovation has benefited from increased funding. However, the focus has been, implicitly and explicitly, on battery technologies. This has had a positive effect with batteries becoming competitive. However, there are additional services, such as inter-day levelling and seasonal peak shifting, that are likely to grow through the 2020s for which other technologies may be better suited. If such energy storage technologies are not developed to meet the growing demand for reliability and resilience, there is a risk of ‘lock-in’ to other options which may be less cost-effective in the longer term.

    There is also a risk of jurisdictional arbitrage, that late-stage development and deployment moves to overseas markets where the value of energy storage can be exploited, and the value from innovation funded in the UK is lost.

Recommendations

For energy storage to fulfil the roles and provide the value identified in this Roadmap, then a number of actions will be required. Some of these are a continuation of existing measures, others are new and should be implemented now, while for others preparations should be made to implement them in the coming years. These actions, the energy storage potential they are intended to reach, and the recommended timing for their implementation are describe below and summarised in the table.

1. Continue and strengthen

1. Strengthen electrochemical battery RD&D base. Funding for energy storage technologies has focused on batteries, and battery systems, to support the electric vehicle manufacturing sector in the UK. This existing strength should be built on through the Faraday Challenge to support the Government’s Industrial Strategy.

2. Assess degradation effects. The degradation of batteries and some thermal energy storage technologies has an impact on their performance, economic viability and safety; further work is required to understand these effects better.

3. Electricity market and regulatory reforms to allow energy storage to compete. New markets for electrical energy storage are emerging and regulatory definitions are being re-assessed to allow energy storage to compete in existing markets. Further reforms that consider the system value of longer duration responses are needed if energy storage is to meet its potential.

4. Study environmental and resource impacts of energy storage technologies, from manufacturing to recycling/re-use. The wider environmental impacts are not yet fully understood but will be significant at a global scale. More research in this area, including on life-cycle assessment and the recycling/re-use of materials, is required.

2. Act now

5. Increase innovation support for large-scale energy storage technologies. By 2030, with increasing levels of variable renewable generation, large-scale energy storage will be required to provide other services such as inter-day load levelling and seasonal peak shifting. RD&D funding should reflect this need.

6. Investment in EV manufacturing skills/plant. Through the early 2020s there will be a growing uptake of EVs, investment is required to ensure this value is captured by the UK manufacturing sector and does not move to overseas markets.

7. Technical and policy/regulatory integration of transport and power systems. The continued electrification of the transport sector will further integrate these systems presenting opportunities such as smart-charging or V2G. Technical innovation and new policy/regulatory measures should be developed to allow these opportunities to be taken.

8. Develop/test/demonstrate technologies at seasonal timescales. The electrification of heat could drive a demand for seasonal storage to manage the variation in summer and winter heat demand. Currently most of the UK’s seasonal storage is in the form of gas, so additional funding should be directed towards developing, testing and demonstrating low-carbon seasonal storage technologies.

9. Integrate circular economy approach to EV manufacturing. A circular economy approach should be implemented to mitigate resource limitations, reduce consumption of energy in production, and deal with used batteries caused by the increased uptake of EVs through the 2020s.

3. Prepare soon

10. Systems analysis and modelling, across energy vectors and scales with storage. The heat, power and transport sectors and the energy vectors that link them are changing rapidly and becoming increasingly integrated. However, there is considerable uncertainty in what many of these changes will look like and their implications for energy storage. Further system analysis and modelling should be undertaken to explore these uncertainties and the impacts on energy infrastructure.

11. Technical & policy/regulatory integration of transport, heat and power systems. By 2030, the heat and transport sectors are likely to undergo greater electrification, resulting in a much more integrated overall energy system. Technical innovation and new policy/regulatory measures should be developed to manage this integration, for example to ensure that demand is met under changing consumption patterns.

12. Establish institutional competencies across scales. Energy storage can play a role in meeting the challenges the UK energy system will face across a range of scales out to 2030 and beyond. However institutional and governance arrangement will need to be established that allow a more integrated system to function for consumers, local and national systems.

Timescale of impact

Timescale Timesacle of actions
Continue Act now Prepare soon
Now
  • Quick response/reserve for ancillary services
1. Support electrochemical battery RD&D base
2. Assess degradation effects
Early 2020s
  • Inter/intra-day peak shifting/load levelling
  • Increasing demand for EV batteries
  • V2G
3. Electricity market and regulatory reforms to allow energy storage to compete.
5. Increase RD&D across larger energy scale ESTs
6. Investment in EV manufacturing skills/plant
7. Technical and policy/regulatory integration of transport and power systems
  • Systems analysis for EV charging & V2G
  • Potential for novel business models
  • Analysis of local scale/distributed contributions
Mid-late 2020s
  • Thermal energy storage integration
  • Battery second-life/recycling opportunities and challenges
  • Electrification of HGVs
4. Study environmental and resource impacts of ESTs, including from recycling/re-use.
8. Develop/test/demo technologies at seasonal timescales
  • TES in buildings and districts
  • Hydrogen
9. Integrate circular economy approach to EV manufacturing.
10. Systems analysis and modelling, across energy vectors and scales with storage
11. Technical & policy/regulatory integration of transport, heat and power systems.
12. Establish institutional competencies across scales.
2030s
  • Seasonal peak shifting