Puzzling the storage conundrum

14/12/15 | Blog

Scottish Renewables members met last week at Arup’s South Queensferry offices to launch the Scottish Renewables Energy Storage Network. Policy Officer Hannah Smith writes on the need to tackle regulatory barriers to drive storage technologies to deployment.

Understanding storage is a bit like tipping a box of Lego onto a child’s bedroom floor – there are a lot of different pieces to choose from, they all do slightly different things, and it takes time to decide what fits best where.

The benefits of storage technologies are clear and go beyond simply storing energy when demand is low and releasing it when required. Storage can provide ancillary services to the grid, delay or reduce the need for infrastructure upgrades, allow for consumers to have more energy autonomy and make the best use of our renewable energy resources.

All of this ultimately makes our energy system more secure and reduces carbon emissions.

In South Queensferry this week a diverse array of speakers discussed the challenges facing energy storage.

Sean Kelly, representing large-scale pumped hydro on behalf of SSE, and Sunamp’s Joan Pisanek, speaking about domestic thermal storage, cited the lack of market visibility as a problem, while experts from Arup and the Institution of Civil Engineers noted the need for clear and fitting regulation.

Storage technologies are not recognised in regulation, meaning storage can be treated as generation or demand. Regulation, however, doesn’t account for something that can do both, and storage currently gets treated as power generation.
That’s far from the full picture of what these technologies can do, and it’s a classification with unfortunate consequences. For example, storage pays National Grid’s system balancing fees twice: once for acting as generation (discharging) and again for acting as demand (charging).

How we define and regulate energy storage will determine the future of the technology, and thus the future of our energy system.

While storage can delay or remove the need to invest in network infrastructure, and help to balance the system as a whole, regulatory restrictions around the distribution network owner’s (DNO) ability to act in generation and supply markets could make it difficult for that benefit to be realised.

That then begins to shape the future market, the required deployment levels, and creates a trajectory that will drive technology development and much-needed cost reductions, as National Grid outline here.

The role energy storage has to play in our future energy system deems it too important to be an anomaly. We must work to develop a regulatory and financial framework that defines the value storage brings to the system.

At Scottish Renewables we are already working with our members, government and regulators to determine the best path through these challenges and make the case for storage in building a secure, affordable and decarbonised energy future.

If you're interested in joining Scottish Renewables' work on energy storage, email hsmith@scottishrenewables.comTo comment on this blog, please do so on our LinkedIn page