Battery tech will power global smart grid ambitions
Battery tech will power global smart grid ambitions

Battery tech will power global smart grid ambitions

This week, the Energy Networks Association (ENA), which represents the distribution and transmission networks operators that deliver power to homes and businesses in the UK, launched a consultation seeking views on how to create a smarter electricity grid.

A particular focus will be the distributed energy technologies – including battery storage – that are needed to make the transition.

“The smart grid transition has the potential to create a whole new range of market opportunities for new technology and service providers, many of whom will be participating in the UK marketplace for the first time,” said David Smith, chief executive of the ENA.

Work to be done

He has a point. All the signs are that, right now, there’s a good deal more work to be done on batteries, which could prove to be an important source of flexibility for smart grids. Much of that work will be done by start-ups, but also by more established companies that branch out into battery technology. Either way, we will need more batteries, storing more energy, more flexibly, in the very near future. Their importance for the IoT cannot be understated.

According to Professor Philip Nelson, chief executive of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC): “Batteries will form a cornerstone of a low-carbon economy, whether in cars, aircraft, consumer electronics, district or grid storage. To deliver the UK’s low-carbon economy, we must consolidate and grow our capabilities in novel battery technology.”

Nelson was speaking at the launch in July of a new government initiative that is promising £45 million to a ‘virtual Battery Institute’ for the UK, for collaboration between industry and academics “in the design, development and manufacture of electric batteries.”

Read more: UK aims for world leadership in battery tech

A global issue

But this certainly isn’t an issue for the UK alone. Every country has much to gain from advances in battery tech and both governments and venture capitalists recognize that fact.

In fact, battery tech is already attracting considerable investment. Total global funding raised during the first half of the year for the battery storage, smart grid and energy efficiency sectors topped $1 billion, a 25 percent increase over the first half of 2016, according to a recent report from Mercom Capital, a global clean energy communications and consulting firm

Of these three areas of focus, battery storage saw the biggest growth year-on-year in terms of funding, both from private equity and venture capital sources, rising from $179 million in the first half of 2016, to $480 million in the first half of this year. Funding recipients included Microvast Power, Vionx Energy and Moixa Technology.

Read more: Powervault to give electric car batteries a second life in smart homes

Renewable energy going to waste

Their work – and this money – is essential. Currently, much of the renewable energy collected in particularly windy or sunny conditions simple goes to waste, so better provision for storage of such power must be a priority.

And, at the same time, demand for power is changing fast. The growing use of electric vehicles is a big factor, as is the use of heat pumps to provide heating and cooling. Smart, connected devices in the IoT all need power – even those associated with controlling energy consumption, such as smart meters. Without new advances in battery tech, the IoT could run out of power pretty quickly. 

These issues and more will all be up for discussion at the Internet of Business Battery and Energy Storage event at The Slate on Warwick University Campus, UK in November.