Last year the United Kingdom’s House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee launched an inquiry into low carbon network infrastructure in the UK. Initially they sought written submissions of evidence, and are now televising live oral submissions to the committee. Fortunately these events are also recorded, and during the one that took place on January 12th there was much discussion of energy storage in general and electric vehicle batteries in particular. Here’s an extract:
Amongst a variety of other contributions you can hear the chair Angus MacNeil MP ask:
To what extent will electricity demand in future exhibit greater peaks and troughs due to the electrification of heat and transport? What changes will that make in demand?
The first expert witness to respond was Sara Bell, the Chief Executive of Tempus Energy:
I think that depends very much on how we manage that demand. Both the demands that you have mentioned are highly flexible, so that offers an enormous opportunity to match that demand to generation, and variable generation can be matched very successfully to that flexible demand. Every electric vehicle could be charged when we have excess renewable generation. There is a way, from an economic standpoint, of managing that sensibly.
The experts went on to discussheat pumps for bit, and then Dr Philipp Grünewald from the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University pointed out that:
Electric vehicles could play a very interesting role in helping to balance the system, because they have inbuilt storage, but another debate is ongoing on the extent to which you want to use that type of storage for the grid. We might come back to that.
to which Dr Jill Cainey of the Electricity Storage Network added:
On electric vehicles, it is more that the charging is the critical thing that you need to control, not necessarily using the battery device for the system services. National Grid has a project in which it has looked at that — at providing frequency response.
You may correctly surmise from the name of this blog that I don’t entirely agree with Jill on that point! “Smart charging” certainly has its place, but so might “using EV batteries for system services” in a rather different market and regulatory environment to the current one. The panel discussed that issue a bit later in the proceedings. Sara Bell again:
We have not even started the process of making the demand side flexible. Tempus Energy is the only electricity supplier that unlocks flexibility in customer premises. We go to our customers and we put control and sensor technology into their premises so that we can move their demand. Every time — and I mean every time — we go into customer premises, they are using electricity at times in a very expensive way, completely unnecessarily, because no supplier has ever rewarded them for their flexibility before, so why should they bother?
We are one small new supplier. If the whole market operated like this, we would unlock a great deal of flexibility, which would reduce the total system cost.
Jill Cainey again:
There are some issues with capacity now. That is why we have the capacity market. I guess Electricity Storage Network would argue that that incentivises particular types of technology for security of supply but doesn’t necessarily support the new innovative approaches such as demand side and electricity storage because of the way that market has been designed…
There are technologies and approaches, such as demand side response and aggregation — aggregators are providing demand side response as well. We need to facilitate those approaches to move forward. That is a market approach.
That we can agree on 101%, and I also agree with Dr Gordon Edge who is Director of Policy at RenewableUK who said:
I would argue that some of the time-limiting steps are not technology but the regulatory market approaches. We need to be thinking about how we make the market so that these things, when they are economic, just happen automatically. At the moment, there are too many barriers.
and with Stephen Goldspink who is Director of Strategy and Business Development at Siemens Energy Management, who added that:
Technology and solutions are already available, as my colleagues has already said, so it is about how fast we deploy those technologies and the regulatory barriers that need to be removed to deploy them. Energy storage, demand side management, energy efficiency — all these things can support this capacity margin issue and put us on the journey to low-carbon networks much quicker.
Angus MacNeil then said:
Thank you. I understand what you are saying about regulatory barriers, but we will leave that section there.
Hence so will we, for the moment at least.