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Looking ahead to COP23 – a global movement for climate action

It may seem like a long way off – but we have started to think about the upcoming COP23 conference in Bonn, where themes like climate finance and the circular economy are going to take centre stage.

At Low Carbon, we have recognised the tremendous potential of financing industrial grade energy storage projects, to create a cleaner and more secure energy future, whilst also supporting in this shift to a more circular economic model. Our partnership with VPI Immingham to create ‘VLC Energy’ will see the development of two of the UK’s largest energy storage plants in Cumbria and Kent, which will be connected to the grid by end of year. Renewable energy is playing an increasingly important role in the UK’s energy mix and as this role expands, the development of energy storage plants will be central to the future success of the UK’s energy network.

This project and projects like this are needed to create the vision for a circular economy, which will be discussed at length in Bonn this year. Energy storage ensures no energy from intermittent renewable energy sources is ever wasted and can be used at times of peak demand. The rise of energy storage will also pave the way for a smarter ‘microgrid’ economy in the UK, with homeowners being able to store the electricity generated from solar panels or electric vehicles in their home energy storage product. In time, we hope to move to an economy where electricity is bought and sold between homeowners in a more agile, circular fashion that the current electricity system today,

As the circular economy and climate finance will dominate the agenda at COP23, we hope to see energy storage take pride of place in this discussion. It presents an attractive, fixed and long-term return on investment for institutional investors all over the world, and will ultimately be the crucial catalyst in the shift to a smarter, more secure and carbon-free grid.

How will energy storage play out in 2017?

Energy storage is set to play a key part in the energy story in 2017. The year began with a bang, with the announcement that the UK was placing energy storage at the heart of its new Modern Industrial Strategy, due to its potential to support smart energy systems and the automotive sector.

This will also be encouraging news for industries across the board, given the potential of energy storage to stabilise energy supply during periods of high and low demand. Any industry will no doubt welcome this stability after an arguably unsteady 2016, which included the decommissioning of many oil and gas stations.

Energy storage systems can fulfil multiple roles within the energy market. Energy can be stored when prices are low and used on site when they are high to save consumers and businesses money on their bills. Alternatively, the stored energy can be sold. EFR (Enhanced Frequency Response) tenders, such as those awarded to Low Carbon among others by the National Grid last year, can also be used to quickly respond to varying demand at different times – storing energy when demand is low in order to be able to meet demands when it is high. A simple example of this concept could occur this summer, as people spend less time watching TV inside during May-June, they require less energy. This energy can be stored, and later used to meet the high demands from broadcasting providers for, say, Wimbledon, which would come at the same time as the Women’s Cricket World Cup Final.

Low Carbon will also hope to leverage its expertise further in the storage space, after having been awarded four contracts last year in the National Grid EFR Tender and Capacity Market auction for battery storage projects at Cleator (10MW) and Glassenbury (40MW).

Towards the end of 2016 the UK pledged to play its part in keep the global temperatures rise to under 2 degrees, and energy storage will be essential in achieving this target in 2017, by allowing more renewables into the energy mix.

2017 predictions for the energy sector

Quentin Scott reflects on what 2016 has meant for the energy sector and what lies ahead in 2017.

2016 has certainly been an interesting year for the global energy agenda. Major political events on both sides of the pond have cast uncertainty on the future of a progressive energy future and pose new questions on whether we can move to a clean energy future as fast as we’d hoped.

However, such uncertainty has also been overshadowed by the rise in support for new energy technologies, the clear winner being energy storage. At Low Carbon, we were proud to have been awarded a total of 4 contracts during 2016 in the National Grid EFR Tender and Capacity Market auction for our battery storage projects at Cleator (10MW) and Glassenbury (40MW).  Battery and industrial – grade storage is the future of our energy sector and real momentum and recognition has been created in 2016.

In 2017, energy storage is going to become crucial to the UK energy sector. As more gas and coal plants are decommissioned, the reliance on renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power is increasing. The UK recently signed up to the Paris Agreement, a pledge to keep global temperature increase to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels, and a diverse energy mix will be vital to fulfilling this commitment. Falling costs of battery technology and the new opportunities opening up in this market mean that there is an ever-growing business case for investment in this area. Energy storage has a central role to play in creating a new, evolved UK energy system and will make a significant contribution to decarbonising our energy supply as a whole.

Furthermore, in 2017, the renewable energy industry in particular must find ways to clearly and confidently move forward in the fight against climate change. The private sector, including institutional investors, can lead the charge in driving investment into renewable energy generation and energy storage, whilst also enjoying the robust returns that come with them. The road ahead must be one of collaboration, with investors and policy makers working together to create a positive investment climate, which will in turn help to tackle the global issue of climate change. It is evident that the investment community has the true power to create change, even policy change. We hope to see UK investors leading the way in 2017 beyond.

Energy Storage – Top Ten Need-To-Knows

The COP22 conference serves as a timely reminder of the importance of renewable energy generation in the fight against climate change. At Low Carbon, we believe that all forms of renewable energy generation have the potential to improve the UK’s energy mix. One area where we are experiencing promising growth is in the energy storage market, specifically large-scale storage projects.

As this technology grows, evolves and attracts support from investors and government, we thought we would bring you up to speed on some quick energy storage facts. Enjoy:

  • According to market research firm IHS, the energy storage market is set to “explode” to an annual installation size of 6 gigawatts in 2017 and over 40 GW by 2022 — from an initial base of only 0.34 GW installed in 2012 and 2013.
  • Over 60 million Americans in 13 mid-Atlantic states plus the District of Columbia are already saving money and receiving highest quality service thanks to energy storage systems operating in that region.
  • Energy storage can enable the integration of more renewables (especially solar PV and wind) in the energy mix.
  • Storage technologies could decrease the need to invest in new conventional generation capacity, resulting in financial savings and reduced emissions especially from electricity generation.
  • Energy storage technologies can also provide system stability during electricity outages by supplying energy at these times and reducing the financial costs of power outages (power cuts).
  • Utilisation of storage also means fewer and cheaper electricity transmission and distribution system upgrades are required.
  • Energy can be stored when prices are low and used on site when they are high to save consumers and businesses money on their bills. Alternatively the stored energy can be sold.
  • Large amounts of energy storage can significantly reduce energy loss during transmission and distribution.
  • Battery storage was already used in the early days of direct current electric power. Where AC grid power was not readily available, isolated lighting plants run by wind turbines or internal combustion engines provided lighting and power to small motors.
  •  Battery storage has relatively high efficiency, as high as 90% or better.

COP22: the climate for investment in renewable energy

2016 was a landmark year for the renewables industry due to COP21 and the resulting Paris Agreement. 174 countries and the European Union signed this deal – an unprecedented commitment to tackle the negative effects of climate change.

12 months on from Paris and on paper the outlook appears less optimistic. COP22 in Marrakesh was overshadowed by several recent political events in the UK and USA and the whole industry is holding its breath for moves to be made for a progressive, healthy energy mix worldwide.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom by any means. Many of the talks at COP22 focused on how developed countries can support poorer nations in terms of their renewable energy adoption and have generally put the topic of climate finance in the spotlight, which is crucial.

Global governments now need to help create a positive investment climate for institutional investors looking to invest in climate change solutions such as solar PV and onshore wind, and commercial energy storage as the vital connection between renewables and the grid. Investors can reap the benefits of strong proven returns but also exercise real power in driving positive change in divesting from fossil fuels and reinvesting into renewables. Additionally, such investments are proven and credible, and often wrongly placed as part of the private equity industry as they are stable infrastructure projects.

We hope that COP22 inspires and educates investors to be more ‘climate aware’ as they diversify their investment portfolios. These ‘climate-savvy’ investors will want to ensure that markets are no longer solely run by fossil fuels such as oil and coal, but will realise the true potential of renewable energy sources to shape our future for the better. Furthermore, strong leadership and collaboration between investors is needed to keep the promise of Paris’s COP21 alive.

Following the political shifts over the last year, the legacy of COP22 must be to weather the uncertainty that is to come. ‘Climate-savvy’ institutional investors can lead the charge in doing so, by driving investment into renewables, but can also enjoy the returns that come with them: it’s a win-win situation. The road ahead must be one of collaboration, with investors and policy makers working together to create a positive investment climate, which will in turn help to tackle the global issue of climate change.