Pathways for Energy Storage in the UK

In order to meet emission reduction targets, the world must urgently increase the supply of energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar. However, these technologies pose a logistical difficulty because of their intermittency. We can address this challenge by developing the capacity to store energy from renewable sources, allowing suppliers to meet peak demand when the wind stops blowing or clouds cover the sun. Failing to develop energy storage systems will mean either continued dependence on fossil fuels, investment in a vastly expanded renewable energy infrastructure or an increasingly unreliable energy supply.

Despite its potential importance, energy storage has so far been under-represented when modelling and planning a low carbon future. There are many potential technologies, but little analysis of their economic viability and possible role in future energy systems. The current political and economic framework also fails to encourage innovation or investment in energy storage systems. There is therefore an urgent need for more research on refining the technologies, considering who should pay and determining the best mix of storage methods to meet our energy needs. The unmet demand for this work creates a huge opportunity for British research and industry both at home and abroad.

The Centre for Low Carbon Futures' pioneering report, Pathways for Energy Storage in the UK, provides an introduction and overview of some of the options. Currently, pumped hydroelectric storage accounts for 99% of global electrical energy storage (not counting fossil fuels) but this kind of centralised, large-scale storage is relatively slow to provide energy. The electrochemical, electrical, thermal or mechanical technologies currently under development provide much more flexibility.


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