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Battery subsidies spark energy row

December 6, 2016

By Paul Homewood


h/t Philip Bratby/Patsy Lacey




A couple of stories that complement each other.

First, from reNEWS:


UK Power Networks (UKPN) has completed a two-year trial of a battery storage facility in Leighton Buzzard saying the demonstration project proves the technology is viable.

The distribution network operator said the Smarter Netwok Storage (SNS) project featuring 6MW/10MWh Samsung SDI lithium-ion batteries proved storage can “potentially transform the energy grid and play a major role in the transition towards a low-carbon economy”.

UKPN director of safety, strategy and support services Suleman Alli said the UK’s largest operational battery storage project showed grid-scale energy storage could be commercially viable as battery costs continue to fall and revenue streams become accessible.

“The trial has drawn attention to the fact that the UK’s regulatory framework needs to evolve to help exploit its full potential.

"For example, energy storage currently incurs a double carbon levy – both when it stores energy and when it releases it.”

The UK government’s recently published smart power call for evidence recognises that storage has a key role to play in the country’s future energy supply and makes reference to the issues the trial highlighted, he added.

The SNS project was funded by £13.2m from the Low Carbon Networks Fund, administered by Ofgem, £4m from UK Power Networks and £1.2m from other business partners and academic institutions.

UKPN will continue to operate the battery storage system.


I’m not sure what to make of the claim that energy storage is viable.  As they don’t put a cost on manufacturing them, there is no evidence that they are commercially viable, which is surely the whole point.

What they do tell us is that the project has cost over £18 million. Even though much of this will have been for developmental work, it hardly appears to be value for money, given that it has only resulted in 6MW of capacity.


But the really telling point is that all of this storage only provides 10MWh. In other words, at the aforesaid capacity of 6MW, it has enough juice to run for 1 hour 40 minutes.


Which brings us to the second story from Emily Gosden, who actually seems to be beginning to grasp some of the issues. (Perhaps she has been reading this blog!)



Battery storage projects could this week win Government subsidy contracts to guarantee they can provide electricity in a crisis – despite the fact they that they run out of juice in as little as half an hour.

The Government has sparked an industry row over its decision to let batteries compete against power plants in its “capacity market” subsidy auction, which kicks off on Tuesday.

The scheme is supposed to ensure Britain has enough reliable sources of power to keep the lights on through future winters. Ministers have decided they need to recruit 52GW of capacity for winter 2020-21.

Most of those bidding for contracts own or want to build conventional power plants, such as coal, gas and nuclear, which can run for weeks at a time.

However, about 500 megawatts (MW) of large-scale batteries developed by companies including Centrica, EDF and SSE have also qualified to compete. Many of the battery projects can only provide their maximum output for half an hour.

It is understood at least one rival energy firm has written to officials to raise concerns that this could leave Britain short of power in a future crisis.

Under the scheme, contract winners must provide their promised amount of capacity when they are called upon in a “stress event” – meaning the UK grid is running short of supplies – and face financial penalties if they fail to do so.


The whole point of buying up standby capacity, via the Capacity Market, is to have power when we need it, not just for a half hour here and there.

It is possible this situation could last for days at a time.


500MW may not be a significant amount in itself, but it would take that much new, proper generating capacity out of the auction, thus compounding problems for future years.

  1. Dung permalink
    December 6, 2016 2:16 pm

    This seems to me to be yet another tier of electricity supply we are supposed to pay (generating plant, standby generating plant and now battery stand by plant) for and all because renewable energy is useless with current technology and unlikely to get any better. Staring the government in the face is cheap, efficient and plentiful electricity from coal and gas with no security issues and no availability issues. All this is because a young graduate in English Literature with no real world experience apart from being a climate change activist, wrote the scientifically illiterate Climate Change Act.

    • David Richardson permalink
      December 6, 2016 3:57 pm

      Yes Dung – seconded and some of the punctuation in the CCA wasn’t that good anyway.

      • Derek Buxton permalink
        December 7, 2016 10:19 am

        I agree and this is stupidity on stilts. Does no one read Physics anymore?

  2. Bloke down the pub permalink
    December 6, 2016 2:18 pm

    I’m all in favour of battery back-up. Wind turbine operators should be required to install it so that they can provide energy 24/7 otherwise they lose their subsidies.

    • AZ1971 permalink
      December 6, 2016 3:52 pm

      I’m in favour of battery back-up at commercial scale and economically viable. Without proper storage capacity and at a price point which makes it competitive, the whole RE discussion is an utter farce.

    • Ross King permalink
      December 6, 2016 6:13 pm

      Exactly! If Renewables are to compete against thermal power, the costs of making it equally reliable shd be stuck on the capital costs of said Renewables.
      Move the sheep out, and fill all those all those moorlands with battery-farms!

  3. Coeur de Lion permalink
    December 6, 2016 2:34 pm

    Right now, we are in the ‘orange ‘ for demand at 46GW – where we rely on renewables. Thank goodness for coal at 20%. Wind? 4%.

  4. AlecM permalink
    December 6, 2016 2:34 pm

    Gosden is apparently waking up to the renewables’ scam.

    Will she also now understand that it is based on fake science, easily proved by any professional scientist or engineer.

    When will those responsible for these crimes, also their corrupted political representatives, be prosecuted?

    • NeilC permalink
      December 6, 2016 4:02 pm

      Alex, when we have a blackout or two over the next few months, it will be headline news. People will start asking questions about our electrivity generating system and they will think, why have politicians got us into this?

      Then, the next general election will be the time to choose the only party with a sane energy manifesto.

      • AlecM permalink
        December 6, 2016 4:07 pm

        The blackouts have already started: central London a week and a half ago.

        Local power cuts in my area last week.

        Power companies sending leaflets to customers telling them how to survive.

        Watch out for tonight – we already have 48 GW demand yet there is no power from France and the rush hour will accelerate to 20.00 hours.

      • Gamecock permalink
        December 6, 2016 8:38 pm

        You have to have EXCESS before you can store anything. Capacity is in crisis, and they are talking storage.

    • Pauline Cornah permalink
      December 6, 2016 10:28 pm

      I just need a précis of all this information that I can actually make sense of! I think I understand where it’s all coming from and what it’s saying but need to be able to argue it in simpler terms. Is that possible??

  5. Jackington permalink
    December 6, 2016 2:52 pm

    Presumably the output of 10MW quoted is AC at 50Hz?

  6. HotScot permalink
    December 6, 2016 3:10 pm

    “Under the scheme, contract winners must provide their promised amount of capacity when they are called upon in a “stress event” – meaning the UK grid is running short of supplies – and face financial penalties if they fail to do so.”

    Somehow our governments believe the threat of fines is a better proposition for underperformance than ensuring there is no possibility there can be underperformance.

    • tom0mason permalink
      December 8, 2016 4:25 pm

      The fines when failing ‘a called upon in a “stress event”’, would just be mere little lumps in the gravy.
      The gravy train would still be operating, albeit slightly less smoothly.

  7. Joe Public permalink
    December 6, 2016 3:20 pm

    The two key factors often (deliberately) ignored by proponents of battery storage schemes are:

    1. Recharge time after depletion. As we witnessed a short while ago, the wind may hardly blow for 2 days or more.

    2. Batteries deteriorate rapidly over time. Paul some time ago highlighted Tesla’s Powerwall ‘shrinking’ capacity/capability warranty over a decade.

    • AlecM permalink
      December 6, 2016 4:08 pm

      The life is determined by repair costs; replacement of duff cells.

    • December 6, 2016 5:16 pm

      Joe: unless the recharge is done by renewables, what’s the point of batteries? And the batteries would be there for when renewables are not generating. See the problem?

      • December 6, 2016 5:39 pm

        They also have to manufactured, transported, installed and maintained using renewable energy, otherwise there is a net release of CO2.

      • Joe Public permalink
        December 6, 2016 7:50 pm

        But they’d save consumers a fortune by reducing the need for Constraint Payments. /sarc

  8. December 6, 2016 3:26 pm

    Hi-vis and hard hats inside a battery warehouse ?
    That’s the wrong kind of safety gear, cos nothing is likely to fall on your head. But you do have think about fire/explosion risk of lithium batteries.

  9. December 6, 2016 3:42 pm

    If the stored electricity only lasts for a short time, it would just be an emergency stopgap until something else is brought online e.g. a proper power station.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      December 7, 2016 1:51 pm

      Which will take more than the half hour battery life if it involves warming the plant up. Will they need to keep the batteries warm in winter as we all know batteries don’t like the cold.

  10. December 6, 2016 3:44 pm

    According to my calculation, 10MWh of storage (not generation) is equivalent to the electricity that would power the UK for about 0.7seconds at peak winter demand of 50GW. Obviously good value for £18.3million. I bet Amber Rudd was not told this, but I bet she was mightily impressed by the technology! If you cornered the world market in lithium, you could probably power the country for an hour.

    • mikewaite permalink
      December 6, 2016 9:05 pm

      Extrapolating to calculate future requirements on the basis of this model of storage and in the context of the Climate Change Act leads me to ridiculous figures for the number of storage sites and the cost to the taxpayer . So ridiculous in fact that surely no Govt minister , surrounded by the finest brains in the Civil Service, could even contemplate it for anything other than temporary local supply . Hopefully my calculations are wrong:-
      To meet part of the requirements of aforesaid Act we need to reduce emissions by 50% by 2025 . Suppose that is mainly by curtailing coal and gas power supplies . To cover the loss of , say , 20GW, because of low wind or solar power , for one day ie 24x20GWH means that another 48000 of these 10MWH stations are required . at a cost of nearly 1000 billion pounds. Even allowing for the fact that I have exaggerated the requirement , perhaps by a factor of 2 or 4 it is still a feat of construction and taxation that seems barely credible when we are one of the most indebted nations on Earth and our public services are falling apart.
      Also , as pointed out below , that stored energy is only available if it has been pumped in on days when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining effectively enough to provide an excess for storage . And of course you will not get out as much as you put in .

      • Derek Buxton permalink
        December 7, 2016 10:25 am

        Of course there is a simple answer, just repeal the stupid Climate Change Act……problem solved.

  11. Ben Vorlich permalink
    December 6, 2016 4:34 pm

    Is Lithium the best solution, should you be foolish enough to go down the renewable/battery route? Specialist large-scale batteries such as flow and liquid metal are probably more cost effective, less cost ineffective. Currently Sodium-Ion and Sodium-Sulphur, and Vanadium flow batteries have been used As wind can be absent for periods lasting hours to weeks then no storage technology can be used to guarantee supply.

    For certain locations I suppose Solar PV can the backed up by one of the above battery technologies, however the output would be reduced by at least half to ensure 24/7 operation. Doesn’t seem viable.

    I agree that any electricial source should be contracted to be available to the Grid when required at any time, allowing that maintenance and breakdowns have to be factored in.

    • December 6, 2016 5:16 pm


      “The company’s Energy Block, a storage container filled with steel-core flywheel systems, is rated at 80 kilowatts and 320 kilowatt-hours, meaning it can provide up to 4-hour charge-discharge cycles. ”

    • AlecM permalink
      December 6, 2016 5:52 pm

      Li-ion batteries have the best capacity/cost/volume profile. Vanadium redox cells are incredibly big so to have a quick boost unit for a medium sized city would occupy much of te city.

      • tom0mason permalink
        December 7, 2016 6:45 pm

        However as Fisker’s epic electric car failure reminds us, lithium is very volatile when wet.

        Also note a city sized battery pack would be more than capable of destroying the city given how much energy would be stored in the confined space.
        I wonder what a terrorist group might think of that?

        Serious security, safety, and fire issues there.

  12. Graeme No.3 permalink
    December 6, 2016 4:54 pm

    Batteries are the last gasp of the innumerate renewables advocates. They have not calculated how many batteries would be needed nor the cost, and more importantly where the electricity is going to come from in the first place.
    The cost of batteries is ignored because they believe that it will come down soon based on the recent history in semi-conductors and solar cells, ignoring the fact that batteries aren’t new and that battery manufacturers have been improving their product for a 100 years.
    The idea for supply is for excess ‘renewables’ to be stored until needed. Unfortunately the demand will occur when there is a shortage because ‘renewables’ are delivering a piddling amount not an excess.
    The recipe for disaster.
    Assume that CO2 causes climate change.
    Assume that renewables actually reduce emissions – it hasn’t happened in Germany nor many other places except by forcing industry elsewhere.
    Assume that there is an unlimited amount of money available for the experiment.
    Assume that people will put up with dangerous loss of supply (without burning wood).
    Assume that the populace won’t one day string you up on the nearest lamp post.

    • AlecM permalink
      December 6, 2016 5:53 pm

      New project – create super strong graphene wire to string politicians from lamp posts.

  13. December 6, 2016 5:55 pm

    Essay California Dreaming in ebook Blowing Smoke has a still mostly current rundown on grid storage options for renewables, including the battery ones. Gives costs, which are prohibitive. There exists no known viable grid storage battery solution. Experiments like this one are propaganda.

    • Athelstan permalink
      December 6, 2016 9:00 pm

      In one ristvan, in one mate.

  14. David permalink
    December 6, 2016 5:58 pm

    Surely any storage should be near the point of use not near the generators so that the batteries could be charged using much lower rating power lines

    • December 6, 2016 8:35 pm

      All battery cells operate below 4Vdc. Higher voltage means stringing cells in series. A 12V DC PbA auto battery is 6 2V cells in series, hence the 6 fill holes. Batteries require power inverter electronics to charge from the AC grid, and they all require power inverter electronics to discharge into the AC grid. So details of the grid supply side are not material.

  15. Joe Public permalink
    December 6, 2016 6:16 pm

    The DOE Global Energy Storage Database provides free, up-to-date information on grid-connected energy storage projects, worldwide

  16. Athelstan permalink
    December 6, 2016 9:12 pm

    I always very much liked the idea of storage capacity, the best scheme – Dnorvig, a blast – if you weren’t a fish of course.

    This crap idea, batteries, is more moonbeam wistfulness – ie green bollox.

    Ever diminishing circles, the road down into Bedlam.

    Once again to cure a problem of HMG’s own fashioning – ie because birdmincers are useless, the green blob attempts to cure it with a [batteries] technology which by comparison presents batchompers in a good light – if that were possible……………………… It’s madness pilled on insanity to cure a non problem…………………………. and we’ll all be shouting blue murder – literally when, a major outage event happens because, we’re all gonna freeze!

  17. December 6, 2016 10:41 pm

    ‘the technology is viable’ – meaning what? We know batteries are ‘viable’.

    Is it viable to power London with batteries when it’s dark and the wind isn’t blowing? Of course not.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      December 7, 2016 1:58 pm

      Attending a meeting on a high street regeneration project some little moppet perked up and asked if the street lighting could be solar powered. Now you have probably spotted the problem there but just in case you haven’t, street lights are needed at night, when its dark, and when the sun doesn’t shine. Not to be swatted aside by such a little problem, she cam back with, you could use batteries. Street lights are on at there longest when the days are short and the nights are long, and cold which is not popular with batteries. So she was shut up. that was a good few years back so you can probably guess that her numbskull idea would be taken seriously now.

      • Russ Wood permalink
        December 8, 2016 2:24 pm

        Solar powered lights! What an idea! Well, some years ago, Johannesburg, South Africa, set up solar panels to drive traffic lights at critical junctions when (note – not IF) the power went out. The batteries and panels were rapidly stolen, and now, there are small concrete fortresses near those junctions.

  18. Athelstan permalink
    December 7, 2016 12:20 am

    corrigendum: piled


  19. John F. Hultquist permalink
    December 7, 2016 5:04 am

    A couple hours of battery storage near Portland, Vic., AU, might have saved the Aluminum smelter there. Things go bad in a hurry when molten metals or glass begin to freeze. (See Jo Nova’s post from 5 Dec.)

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      December 7, 2016 11:36 am

      Not sure that batteries could cope. Portland uses about 10% of Victoria’s power at 310kA. It was offline for 6 hours.

      • John F. Hultquist permalink
        December 7, 2016 11:07 pm

        The idea would be to empty the equipment and reduce the damage. About the necessary power and time needed — beyond my scant knowledge, being just a tourist of such places.

  20. Richard111 permalink
    December 7, 2016 7:44 am

    Do a search on ‘supercapacitor batteries’.

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      December 7, 2016 8:07 am

      I did the search and found this

      On the other hand, supercapacitors are offset by their low energy density. Thus, they can’t be used as a continuous power source. One cell has a typical voltage of 2.7 V; if higher voltage is needed, the cells must be connected in series.

      • tom0mason permalink
        December 7, 2016 6:19 pm

        Your 12 volt vehicle battery is made from 6 x 2 volts cells in series.

        However Wikipedia has this handy graphic explaining the difficulty with super capacitors —

        And at the end of — — there is a note on the on-going research of supercapattery and supercabattery. These ‘have been recently proposed to better represent those hybrid devices that behave more like the supercapacitor and the rechargeable battery, respectively.’

        Tomorrow then …

    • AlecM permalink
      December 7, 2016 9:39 am

      You haven’t a bleedin’ clue.

      Do an engineering and economic analysis and supercaps might power model cars or drones for a few minutes.

  21. Ben Vorlich permalink
    December 7, 2016 8:09 am

    Having read all the comments with current technology there is no battery storage, including pumped hydro, that can effectively cover for a period of more that a few hours loss of a renewable electrical source.

  22. It doesn't add up... permalink
    December 7, 2016 11:43 am

    I am trying to get more information about a 20MW (sic) battery scheme to be installed at Dormington, a few miles from Hereford. It has just reached planning consent.

    • Joe Public permalink
      December 7, 2016 1:34 pm

      Note one of its prime functions:

      “……. which will provide real-time grid stabilisation to the local distribution network.”

      Translation: We’ve added too many intermittent turbines & solar panels, they’ll need specific stabilisation.

      See … “How batteries can stabilize the grid”

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        December 7, 2016 3:54 pm

        There are no wind farms in the area although there are some in mid Wales. Solar is also sparse. OTOH I expect the loss of Ironbridge a few tens of miles away reduces dispatchable availability.

  23. Russ Wood permalink
    December 8, 2016 2:18 pm

    The total of MWh could run an all-electric house in winter for about a month. Not good value for 18 million!

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