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The role of energy storage and the part it will play in helping the UK reach its net-zero targets on carbon emissions by 2050 has been set out in a roadmap drawn up by researchers at the University of Birmingham, drawing on expert knowledge from across the energy sector.

The Energy Storage Roadmap, launched at a webinar attended by industry, academic and policy experts, assesses the role of energy storage in the UK’s future energy system over the next 10-15 years, and sets out how UK research and innovation can play a role in developing this system.

Achieving net-zero targets will depend on the growth of renewable energy sources such as wind and tidal power and the take-up of electric vehicles and heat pumps. Because the energy generated by the renewable sources varies, there is an increasing need for robust energy storage technologies – for both electricity and heat – which can keep energy systems stable and supply reliable.

Technologies that allow energy to be stored over hours, days and months have been recognised as essential in the Government’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution. Developing these systems in a sustainable and integrated way is key to the transition to a low-carbon energy system.

To achieve these goals, the roadmap sets out a series of key recommendations to guide future research and policy priorities, including:

  • Strengthen research and development in electrochemical batteries. This includes building on existing strengths in electric vehicle battery research, as well as carrying out further work to assess the effects of battery degradation and other environmental effects.
  • Continue reforms to the electricity market and its regulation to enable energy storage technologies to compete in the marketplace.
  • Increase innovation support for large-scale energy storage technologies, including thermal and seasonal storage.
  • Invest in Electric Vehicle manufacturing in the UK, including supporting the development of a circular economy in this sector.
  • Ensure that policy and regulation keeps pace with technical innovation, in particular for the increasing integration of heat, power and transport.
  • Carry out systems analysis and modelling to improve understanding of the role that energy storage can play to meet the needs of future power generation.
  • Establish institutional competencies to allow energy storage to be operated across scales, whilst delivering a wider system benefit.

Lead author, Dr Jonathan Radcliffe, of the Energy Systems and Policy Analysis Group at the University of Birmingham, says: “Energy storage will play a critical role as we continue to integrate low-carbon energy systems. In order to accelerate this transition, we need robust energy storage technologies and clear strategies for implementing them. This roadmap will be important for prioritising and guiding current and future activities.”

Professor David Elmes of Warwick Business School, who chaired the roadmap’s launch webinar, said: “It’s great to see that the Energy Storage Research & Innovation Roadmap looks at electricity and heat together. The seasonal demand for heat greatly exceeds the UK’s current electricity demand.  A roadmap that covers multiple uses of energy is essential – heating, cooling, our current uses of electricity and also the rising demand as we electrify transport through EVs.”

Mr Philip Sharman, Director at Evenlode Associates and panellist at the Roadmap launch event said: “It is important that, alongside the government’s ‘10-point plan’ and upcoming Energy White Paper, we have clear roadmaps that guide us on what R&D and innovation is needed.  This one, on the crucial and integrating area of energy storage, is particularly needed at this time.”

Dr Alexandra Gormally of Lancaster University, said: “Given the huge challenges and opportunities we face as we transition to Net zero, this Roadmap couldn't be more timely. Energy storage will be a fundamental part of our new energy future and this Roadmap will help guide us in our transition”

Professor Dan Gladwin of the University of Sheffield, said: “Over a third of the electrical energy in our homes is now supplied from renewable sources, and with increasing electrification of transport, more energy storage is needed. Whilst we have some storage solutions today to solve our short-term needs, the type of storage we need will evolve rapidly. This roadmap is important in that it details the requirements and actions needed to meet our storage needs to enable us to transition to a low-carbon future.”

Dr Alex Buckman, Practice Manager Networks and Energy Storage, Energy Systems Catapult, said: “The deployment of low carbon technologies needed by 2050 to meet net zero will require a significantly increased use of energy storage technologies across all vectors and durations. The recommendations made in this roadmap support this uptake through a series of realisable steps, accounting for both near term challenges and long term energy system transformation.”

The Energy Storage Roadmap was prepared by the Energy Systems and Policy Analysis Group at the University of Birmingham. It was supported by the Energy SUPERSTORE and the Supergen Energy Storage Network+, both funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (part of UK Research and Innovation).

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