The UK should make wider use of energy storage systems and other smart technologies if it wants to decarbonise its power grid at the lowest cost possible, according to new research released today by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).
The analysis, compiled in collaboration with battery storage company Eaton and Norwegian energy firm Statkraft, concludes that in the UK and Germany “flexible” energy options are necessary to ensure grids can cut carbon emissions without radically pushing up consumer costs.
Making use of technologies like energy storage, interconnectors, and demand response services increases the amount of green power that can be stored and called on during times of high demand, removing the need to overbuild renewables capacity or pay for expensive fossil fuel powered back-up plants, the researchers point out.
The report predicts that without these flexible technologies, wind and solar will still dominate the UK power system by 2030 – providing more than 70 per cent of electricity – but the system will become 13 per cent more expensive because of the additional capacity and back-up plants that would be needed to cope with fluctuations in demand.
“There is now little doubt that renewable energy will be the dominant force in the power sector for decades to come,” said Albert Cheung, head of global analysis at Bloomberg BNEF. “The next challenge is to make sure these sources are complemented by clean forms of flexibility – storage, demand and interconnection – to deliver cheaper, deeper decarbonization.”
In Germany, although flexible technologies are not expected to force low cost coal power off the grid completely over the coming decade they should enable emissions savings from transport and help expand the volume of renewables on the grid.
The research concludes that if it wants to meet its carbon targets Germany must bring forward specific policies to combat its use of coal – an analysis the government appears to concur with given the recent appointment of a new commission to explore how coal emissions can be curbed.
However, overall the new paper joins the growing body of research that stresses how flexible grid technologies can help lower the cost of power decarbonisation, allowing larger volumes of cost effective renewable power on to the grid by shifting demand to periods of high generation – when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining – or by storing the power in static batteries or electric vehicles until it is needed.