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Battery storage to benefit as National Grid seeks to simplify balancing services

National Grid has launched a consultation into the way it responds to UK's future energy needs, with an emphasis on a strategy which could encourage further development in the battery storage sector in the future.21 Jun 2017

The National Grid's Systems Needs and Product Strategy (SNaPS) consultation (44-page / 878KB PDF) looks at how the network should balance the country's energy needs. It focuses on how the grid can become more efficient and how it can work with the energy industry to create products which can respond flexibly to changing needs.

Last year the National Grid ran an enhanced frequency response (EFR) tender which resulted in eight battery storage projects being offered contracts. The projects will be expected to respond to variations in system frequency more quickly than previous technology solutions, reacting in under a second instead of within 10 seconds as in the past.

Earlier this year energy law expert Becca Aspinwall of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said the UK government should consider incentivising the use of battery storage and other devices such as solar panels as a means of reducing fuel poverty.

Energy law expert Nicholas Shenken said SNaPS was an acknowledgement from National Grid “that intensifying future demands on the system requires it to look carefully at the requirements and opportunities for simplification of balancing services in order to incentivise investment”.

“An indication of those future demands is demonstrated to some extent by the regularity with which we now see record contributions to our generation mix from renewables,” Shenken said. 

Last week National Grid's Electricity National Control Centre reported that the majority of the UK's demand for electricity had been met by wind, solar, biomass and hydro power sources for the first time.

“The stage is therefore set for an ever increasing role for flexible service providers to respond to the needs of the system. National Grid has an equally important role to play in the extent to which those providers are incentivised to participate and innovate.  The hope is that SNaPS provides the platform for precisely that,” Shenken said.

The SNaPS consultation proposes replacing firm frequency response (FFR) and EFR products with  a single response product which can provide the faster response the Grid now needs.

The National Grid is also reviewing its “black start” strategy, which is the service used to restore the UK electricity system in the event of a partial or total shutdown. It said there were opportunities for new providers, including alternative technology providers, to enter contracts from next year provided they met technical requirements.

The SNaPS consultation process takes into account views expressed through a survey of the current balancing services market carried out last year, which identified a number of issues. These included the fact there were currently too many products which providers can choose to tender for, and that it was not always clear what system issue each product was attempting to address.

As a result the National Grid is proposing to rationalise its product suite, standardise its markets by fixing response parameters and reviewing contract terms, and potentially changing its procurement processes.

The consultation is open until 18 July.