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The electricity system in 2035 can be clean, affordable and keep the lights on – but major investment in long duration storage is urgently needed to ensure energy security.

  • A new report from Aurora Energy Research shows that up to 24 GW of Long Duration Electricity Storage (LDES) – equivalent to eight times the current installed capacity – could be needed to integrate wind power into a secure Net Zero electricity system
  • LDES include pumped storage and a range of innovative new technologies that can store electricity for four hours or more in order to supply firm, flexible and fast responding energy that is valuable for managing a high renewables system
  • Introducing LDES in large quantities in GB by 2035 can reduce carbon emissions by 10 MtCO2 p.a., reduce system costs by £1.13 bn p.a. (2.5%) and reduce reliance on gas by 50 TWh p.a.
  • However additional policy is needed for large-scale deployment of LDES. In addition to direct support such as establishing an adapted Cap & Floor mechanism, investments in LDES can be enabled by reforms to strengthened market signals

Today, Aurora Energy Research publishes a report demonstrating the potentially critical role of LDES in the GB energy system. The UK’s Net Zero strategy to decarbonise the power system fully by 2035 is subject to security of supply being maintained. With gas-fired generation currently the main flexible resources available to balance intermittent solar and wind, Aurora’s report finds this target is unachievable without urgent investment in viable low-carbon alternatives.

LDES can provide flexible but reliable capacity enabling increased utilisation of renewables, enhanced system stability and resilience. LDES technologies can respond to supply and demand variations caused by daily peaks, weather events and seasonal patterns. With over four hours of stored energy, examples of LDES include pumped hydro storage, Liquid Air Energy Storage (LAES), Flow batteries and Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES).

Aurora’s report demonstrates the benefits LDES could provide to the GB energy system by contributing towards security of supply and reducing emissions, costs and reliance on gas. The need for LDES has been recognised by policymakers but at present, high upfront costs, long lead times, a lack of revenue certainty and missing market signals, lead to underinvestment. Policy support and market reforms can provide revenue certainty and address missing markets to recognise the full value of LDES to enable the deployment of LDES projects.

The report, entitled “Long duration electricity storage in GB”, was conducted for a consortium of public and private sector organisations.

Felix Chow-Kambitsch, Head of Commissioned Projects, Western Europe at Aurora Energy Research said:

“The UK’s Net Zero strategy has accelerated the deployment of wind and solar, and this has resulted in a large requirement for Long Duration Electricity Storage to balance the intermittent renewables.

“Aurora’s report demonstrates the importance of LDES in facilitating the UK’s decarbonisation targets. LDES provides a valuable contribution to system security and operability in a high renewables energy system. In addition to providing low carbon firm capacity, LDES technologies also provide a wide range of balancing and ancillary services to help manage the electricity network.”

Stephen Wheeler, Managing Director of SSE Renewables said:

“Cost-effectively and securely decarbonising the UK’s electricity system by 2035 will require a range of flexible home-grown long duration storage technologies.

“This timely study by Aurora finds that to achieve the government’s ambition, an eight-fold increase in long duration storage capacity is needed. This amount of storage capacity will not only play a major role in reducing emissions, but also significantly reduce the UK’s reliance on imported gas and in return, keep household energy bills lower and less volatile.

“The introduction of a new policy mechanism such as the Cap and Floor could unlock the investment required in projects such as our 1,500MW Coire Glas pumped storage project which has the standalone capability to more than double the UK’s total electricity storage capacity and significantly scale up system flexibility.”

Mark Wilson, CEO of ILI Group said:

“With the announcement from the Scottish Crown of new seabed leases for offshore wind and the UK Government’s planned 40 GW to come on stream by 2030, energy storage projects will become increasingly important.

“Long-duration energy storage, storage over 4hrs in particular, is crucial to the UK’s net zero ambitions. Without energy projects in place the renewable generation capacity in the country will soon hit a ‘Green Glass Ceiling’ whereby adding more ‘variable’ renewable generation actually threatens grid stability and security of supply in our grid network.

“We are currently awaiting the outcome of the UK Government’s Call for Evidence on long-duration storage. Having the necessary market mechanism in place will enable the current Pumped Storage Hydro pipeline of over 5 GW to be built and keep the country on target for achieving net zero. We agree that a cap and floor mechanism, similar to what is in place for interconnectors between the UK to Europe, will get all these nationally significant infrastructure projects moving, but time is critical.

“The benefits for these projects will extend beyond climate bringing over £3 billion in construction investment into the UK and Scotland, creating thousands of new jobs just as we emerge from the COVID crisis.”

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