Energy storage allows variations in the production and use of energy to be managed efficiently, across timescales that align with supply and demand. Historically, stored energy has been in the form of primary fuel stocks of coal, natural gas, oil, biomass or uranium. A relatively small amount of energy has been stored after conversion to electricity using pumped hydro storage (PHS), and in thermal stores of water heated by natural gas or electricity. This reflects an energy system in which fossil fuels are held in large stores, electricity can be quickly dispatched by large centralised generators, natural gas pipes are ‘packed’, petroleum products kept at filling stations, and patterns of demand for power and heat are quite predictable.
In a world where energy use must change rapidly to mitigate climate change, and supplies increasingly come from variable and more local sources, there is a requirement to have a more responsive energy system that is reliable, resilient and low carbon. One option to achieve this is to increase levels of energy storage, recognising the multi-scalar and multi-vector characteristics of energy demands, and the socio-technical nature of the system. The scope of such energy storage covers a broad family of technologies with different cost and performance characteristics, from domestic-level batteries to underground reservoirs holding hot water.
Storage has a cost, but brings benefits – how these are calculated and where they fall, will help determine their eventual role. Just as technological innovation and policy mechanisms have led to the deployment of low carbon generation, a combined approach will be needed to allow the full potential of energy storage to be exploited. Moreover, the increasing integration of heat, power and transport sectors and the energy vectors that link them, means that the institutional and regulatory environments will play a key role.
The aim of this roadmap is to assess the potential role of energy storage in the UK’s future energy system and identify the contribution of research and innovation to meeting the deployment challenges. The approach has draws on reviews of the existing evidence, expert input, and energy system and technology analysis:
Energy system scenarios of the UK in the context of net-zero targets for 2050: considering the timing of the energy system transition.
The characteristics of energy storage technologies that could play a role in the future energy system.
The innovation landscape in the UK, from research to policy.
As a research and innovation ‘roadmap’ the purpose is not to prescribe a scale of deployment of energy storage, nor the specific measures that should be put in place; rather, we set out the challenges and the options as a guide, highlighting some important features. Future iterations will draw on research and analysis as results emerge.
This report is structured as follows:
The UK's Energy System
Describes the energy system of the UK as it stands in 2020, and insights from scenarios as to how it may evolve through to 2050, exploring changes in supply and demand.
Focuses on the role of energy storage in the energy system, including its high-level purposes and the more specific services it can provide in the transition to net-zero.
Energy Storage Technologies
Looks at energy storage technologies that are being developed, and some of the technical challenges facing them.
Energy Storage Innovation
Assesses aspects of the UK’s innovation for energy storage, from technology-push to policy-pull.