In these fast-evolving times, who’d have thought that a device created in 1800 would be so important to our energy future?

 

I’m talking about batteries – and the increasing role they are set to play in helping us to balance power supply and demand.

 

As we reduce dependence on fossil fuels and instead embrace more low-carbon intermittent sources of energy generation – as well as switching to electricity to power our vehicles – finding a cost-effective way to store power is key.

 

An effective storage solution

Despite this relatively simple technology – which converts electrical energy to chemical energy and vice versa – being around for more than two centuries, batteries are still seen as the most efficient storage solution.

 

And while the basic premise remains the same, the focus of technological developments is on increasing how much energy can be packed into ever-smaller batteries, and to reduce the cost of making them.

 

Costs fall by 80%

Sonnen, a German battery manufacturer with about 25% of the global domestic market, has seen prices fall from almost €1000 per kilowatt of energy capacity in 2010 to about €150-200 today.

 

And while there are alternative battery materials and technologies emerging, many experts don’t expect the dominance of lithium-ion technology to be superseded any time soon.

 

What is changing is the speed of charging (or converting energy to storage), especially in the electric vehicle (EV) market.

 

Charging time reducing

Typically, a 3KW domestic socket will charge a car to full in 8-10 hours. But some of the newer 350KW public chargers can achieve the same in just ten minutes.

 

Despite average EV range increasing from 100 miles to between 200 and 300 miles, the availability of widespread rapid charging will be the game changer that drives uptake for many.

 

And of course, when there are more EVs on the road, using batteries elsewhere on our energy network is likely become more crucial to balance increased demand.

 

The UK currently has around 500MW of installed battery capacity – and this is expected to double over the next three years.

 

100-fold global expansion

According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, battery capacity worldwide is forecast to exceed 50GW by 2020 – and increase to almost 1000GW by 2040. That’s a 100-fold increase and will provide the equivalent of 7% of global energy capacity.

 

In particular, we are seeing more batteries being installed alongside renewable energy plants, so power can be stored and released when economically more viable to do so.

 

Optimising renewable plant

Certainly, in the UK, we are seeing a trend for local authorities and councils to explore the benefits of pairing battery storage with renewable generation to provide continuous supply.

 

In the south of England, for example, we are working with one local council to optimise revenue from their own onsite solar generation by using battery storage.

 

New opportunities for flexibility

And as more Distribution Network Operators trial the benefits of procuring balancing services at a local level, we are working with large business customers looking to maximise flexibility around consumption using battery storage. (See our recent blog on this.)

 

This is especially relevant where the business case for previous investment in onsite flexibility has been built around Triad and red-rate avoidance.

 

As these are set to change following a current Ofgem review (see more here), keeping in step with emerging new opportunities is key.

 

If you are interested in finding out more about how your business could harness the benefits of energy flexibility and potentially battery storage, do get in touch with us on 0800 193 6866.