Enabling fluctuating renewables to meet demand

The UK energy system is undergoing change to deliver low carbon, smarter and more decentralised energy. The potential of electricity storage to function as a key enabler of flexibility and to play an increasing role in helping to manage supply and demand is increasingly viewed as a key component of this, writes Carl Ennis, head of products and systems sales, smart infrastructure at Siemens UK


he marriage between renewable generation and storage is natural to

balance demand with the different amounts of renewable electricity generated, depending on factors like the time of day or the weather. As a result, renewable generators are increasingly looking at co-location of storage. The government and Ofgem have been responding by modernising the regulatory environment for electricity storage through clarity on licensing, planning, connections and charging for storage, and by enabling storage to locate on the same site as renewable generation. Although it should be pointed out that this should really refer to co-location on the same grid, rather than physical co-location on the same site, as digitisation means that generators, storage and management systems can be on separate, linked sites. With electricity demand set to double

by 2050, the UK’s energy system has reached a turning point and The Future Energy Scenarios (FES) report, updated in July 2019, makes it clear that storage will play an ever more important role in integrating low carbon generation; reducing the costs of operating the system and helping avoid or defer network reinforcements and generation build, plus avoiding curtailment of low carbon generation.

NEW BUSINESS MODELS The increasing focus is on the decentralised generation and storage of electricity, where multiple local sites – including buildings, campuses, hospitals, air and sea ports and local government estates, amongst others – generate and manage their own electricity. Consumers are now becoming generators and can develop new business models to justify investment and by making an income or massive savings from their energy. This calls for intelligent distributed energy management and interconnected microgrids. Many of the facilities, within Siemens and its client’s, are committed


to zero emissions, in Siemens case by 2030, and seeking to become self-sufficient in energy in the process. Passenger cars, taxis, buses and light

vans account for around 75 per cent of transport CO2

for 15 per cent of overall CO2

emissions, which account output.

Using energy stored in the batteries of electric vehicles in the car parks of the future to power large buildings not only provides electricity for the building, but also increases the lifespan of the vehicle batteries. Battery systems technology has advanced very rapidly and we have to hope that this will continue, through the efforts of manufacturers like Siemens and others, coupled with, and working alongside, the research efforts of universities. Ideally, we should be moving away from

rare earth metals, essential to the current wave of battery development. Lithium, cobalt, vanadium, copper and so on have a clue in their generic name - they are rare. Furthermore, these

minerals are mostly found in countries with unstable or inimical political systems and where mining practices do not always meet the basic human rights standards the Siemens would wish for.

DEMONSTRATORS Siemens has produced hydrogen power cells for on-site storage of solar and wind generated electricity; off-grid charging of electric vehicles; to augment power connections in car parks or fleet vehicle parks for EV charging at multi story car parks, shopping centres, parking for buses, ambulances and police cars; for powering trains on the systems of many countries and for powering heavy goods vehicles. The company has recently installed hydrogen fuel cells for storage at Keele University as part of a major demonstrator development to make it self-sufficient and save £2m per annum in energy bills. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has launched a hydrogen supply programme which aims to accelerate the development of bulk low-carbon hydrogen supplies. Green ammonia is another avenue

Siemens is exploring. In a world first project, supported by Innovate UK, Siemens has built an energy storage demonstration system to explore using ammonia in the energy supply chain via a low-carbon production process. The ammonia is stored for conversion back to electricity when required. Ammonia has a long history of safe storage and transportation and a large infrastructure network. Its energy density by volume is nearly double that of liquid hydrogen. Energy storage, in all its forms, both

existing and not yet developed, is a critical element in our ‘future grid’. We are not only underestimating the scale of the task, but also the amount of relevant technology already in existence. We need to raise our ambition.


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