The role of energy storage in the UK electricity system

18 February 2016

Andrew Renton

The UK's electricity market faces a number of significant and potentially conflicting challenges.

Changing demands

Increasing environmental awareness; volatility in global markets; shifts in weather patterns; increasing electrification of transport and heating, and development of a social conscience about where and how electricity is generated.


Decarbonisation policy both national and international requires rapid and significant increases in low carbon generation. Renewable generation is less flexible and predictable than carbon intensive generation presenting an increasing challenge to match electricity demand with supply.

Security of supply

The increased risk to the security of Britain's electricity supply is apparent both in terms of decreasing overall capacity and a lack of responsiveness of available capacity to match real-time fluctuations. Capacity auctions may preserve supply but tend to favour thermal generation.

Evolving Energy Networks

Grids and networks are undergoing fundamental changes in the way they operate. Generation is increasingly dispersed across the network and flows of energy are increasingly twoway: this presents system operators at all scales with a more complicated and interdependent system to manage.

Ageing infrastructure

The changing nature of energy generation and consumption requires investment to upgrade system infrastructure and controls to allow it to continue to function for the needs of the UK. New technologies will be a crucial component of the future networks.

These potentially conflicting aims of decarbonisation, maintaining security of supply and keeping prices affordable are set in the context of a highly regulated sector. In summary, providing affordable, reliable, clean energy presents a formidable challenge.

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