Opinion

Opportunities for installers in battery storage

Over the next decade, electricity energy storage systems will play a key role in creating a ‘smart’ energy grid which is more efficient, flexible and can cope with the complexities of a low-carbon society.

Over the next decade, electricity energy storage systems will play a key role in creating a ‘smart’ energy grid which is more efficient, flexible and can cope with the complexities of a low-carbon society. 

The ability to store surplus energy for later use also offers great potential for microgeneration, allowing consumers to use all the electricity they generate from small-scale renewables, often while retaining feed-in payments.  Griff Thomas from GTEC Training takes a look at the latest developments and discusses the training and business opportunities presented by the growing electrical storage market.

Energy storage is rapidly becoming the solution to the significant and conflicting challenges presented by the low carbon future.  As demand increases from key sectors, such as transport and heating, the grid will need to provide a secure and consistent supply while relying on renewable sources, such as wind and solar photovoltaics (PV). 

Electrical energy storage systems (EESS), both industrial and small-scale residential, will enable grid operators to effectively balance intermittent supply with increased demand and contribute to net zero by integrating more renewable energy into the grid.  This growing market offers opportunities for renewable heating installers looking to keep pace with the rapidly developing renewables sector. 

Enabling net zero

We are generating more electricity from renewables than ever, but there is still a long way to go.  Last year, low-carbon generation (incorporating renewables and nuclear) overtook fossil fuels for the first time, with 30% of the UK’s electricity generated by wind and solar.  According to the Climate Change Committee (CCC), we will need to double our total electricity generation and quadruple our low-carbon generation if we are to meet the demands of a net zero society by 2050. 

But simply generating more low-carbon electricity will not be enough if we cannot store surplus energy for later use.  Industrial-scale storage projects will play a huge role in increasing the efficiency of the National Grid and providing a secure supply of affordable, reliable and clean energy. 

Over the last year, there has been a significant increase in battery storage capacity in the UK, with more than 16.1GW either operating, under construction of being planned according to trade association, RenewableUK.

At the end of last year, independent energy company InterGen received planning approval for the UK’s largest battery storage project to date, which will add up to 1.3GWh of energy storage capacity with the potential to power 300,000 homes for two hours.  The Thames Estuary based project will utilise lithium-ion technology to store zero carbon energy from wind and solar farms, alongside a second site in Spalding offering an additional 700MWh of storage capability.

Domestic self-sufficiency

Domestic energy storage is an emerging market that has seen rapid growth in recent years.  Formerly used only by those living alternative lifestyles, electrical energy storage now offers great potential for a growing number of climate-conscious consumers keen to become more self-sufficient and contribute to a clean, green society. 

German micro-generators are embracing the benefits of battery storage, something which will hopefully set a precedent for the UK and other countries to follow.  Last year, there was a sharp rise in demand for residential EESS in Germany and an estimated 270,000 households are now reaping the rewards of small-scale renewable generation and battery storage.  Driven by falling prices and government incentives, around 70% of German solar PV systems are installed alongside a battery and residential storage represents around 2.3GWh of storage capacity across the country.

Retain FiT payments

The inflexible nature of renewable generation means most systems generate surplus electricity at times of high supply and low demand, which is then sold back to the grid.  Around 800,000 households get paid for this through the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) scheme, which pays consumers for electricity generated and the surplus exported back to the grid, assumed to be 50% of total generation. 

In most cases, battery storage can be retrofitted to existing small-scale renewables without losing access to the scheme.  This means households can use all the electricity they generate while retaining FiT payments, which could have a significant impact on overall energy costs.

New renewables installations will fall under the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG), the new export tariff which replaces FiT.  The SEG is more flexible that the FiT and energy companies have the freedom to set their own rates and conditions.  Some contracts may offer payments for storing brown electricity, but for many consumers, using their own stored electricity will be preferential to exporting it back to the grid.

Upskill to EESS

GTEC Training is now offering the LCL Awards Level 3 Award in the Design, Installation and Commissioning of Electrical Energy Storage Systems.  This qualification is aimed at installers with experience of electrical installations and covers the installation of dedicated EESS in accordance with the IET Code of Practice for Electrical Energy Storage Systems.

The EESS qualification is an ideal upskill for installers working on properties that generate electricity through renewable technologies, such as solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind power.  Learners for this qualification will typically be updating their current competence or undertaking continuous professional development (CPD).

The course offers installers the opportunity to expand their services to incorporate the latest battery storage technologies.  Customers will benefit from your expertise in specifying the best storage solution on a case-by-case basis, allowing them to get more value from their renewable electricity generation, reducing bills and ensuring system efficiency. 

The Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) will soon be able to offer certification for companies who what to show their customers that they work to the highest standards.

It’s an exciting time to be part of an industry which will have such an impact on our future society.  Energy storage is the latest development to push us further towards net zero and will play a huge part in decarbonisation plans over the next 30 years.  Installers who are willing to embrace new technology and training will be well-placed to prosper in the low-carbon future.

GTEC Training is a specialist provider of renewable energy training and qualifications. For more information or to register your interest in our EESS training courses, visit: https://gtec.co.uk/contact