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Case for investment in energy storage clear, says expert, as National Grid awards battery projects

Battery storage has the potential to be "transformational" for UK energy security, an expert has said, after storage solutions made up the majority of successful awards under National Grid's enhanced frequency response (EFR) tender.01 Sep 2016

Of the 64 projects that bid under the programme, 61 involved battery assets, according to the UK's electricity system operator. Two demand reduction projects and one thermal generation project also bid, it said.

Successful projects will be used by National Grid to help it control the increasing variations in system frequency that can be caused by intermittent renewable energy sources feeding into the grid. In order to successfully balance energy supply and demand across the UK, system frequency must be maintained at a steady 50 cycles per second (50Hz), according to National Grid.

Previous technology solutions could react to system frequency volatility in under 10 seconds. The projects awarded contracts under the EFR tender will be expected to respond in under a second, reducing National Grid's costs by £200 million and ultimately the end costs of the consumer, the system operator said in its announcement.

The new projects are expected to be online between October 2017 and March 2018, according to National Grid. Once online, they should be able to provide 201 megawatts (MW) of EFR, at a total cost of just under £66m.

Energy expert Peter Feehan of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, welcomed the awards, which he said had the potential to help the UK to tackle its "very real threat of blackouts".

"Headline-grabbing supply crunches and threats of blackouts have brought the issue of security of supply into sharp focus," he said.

"While it is early days, with many of the projects bidding for a place on this panel still in the early stages of development, the underlying drivers to investing in energy storage are clear. Talk of 'keeping the lights on' is more than just punchy rhetoric - it's a challenge that we must tackle head on. Bolstering our home grown energy supply and harnessing it more effectively will reduce our reliance on pricy imported energy, and will lower consumer costs," he said.

National Grid said that the four-year term of the contract awards would "give providers the certainty that they need" to develop the technology.

"This project is at the very core of our 'power responsive' work, to balance the grid by the most efficient means possible, saving money and energy," said Cordi O'Hara, a director of National Grid. "These awards show that we can work with industry to bring forward new technology and I believe storage has much to contribute to the flexible energy system of tomorrow."

Speaking to the BBC earlier this week, new National Grid executive director Nicola Shaw called for a 'smart' energy "revolution" to help reduce the risk to the UK of blackouts at times of high demand.

Shaw told the BBC that between 30% and 50% of grid fluctuations could be addressed by coordinated demand reduction at peak times through the use of new software and controls.