Electricity storage could be the “glue” that holds electricity networks together in the near future, according to Alan Whitehead MP, speaking at a parliamentary reception held to launch a new report published by the Electricity Storage Network.

Whitehead spoke at the Houses of Parliament as Development of Energy Storage in the National Interest, was launched. The Electricity Storage Network is a UK-based “informal group of manufacturers, developers, network operators and others interested in storage”.

As head of the All-Party Parliamentary Renewable and Sustainable Energy Group (PRASEG), Whitehead opened the event by explaining that PRASEG had argued for the importance of looking deeper at energy storage for some time. He said the debate had moved on from a few years ago when anyone discussing energy storage, he said, would simply “receive a quizzical look”.

From those days when storage was simply written off as impossible, Whitehead said, as electricity networks changed and demands placed on networks changed, things had moved on. He said, however, that the debate now needed to progress even further, until we saw a deployment of electricity storage that could go beyond the pilot stage.

Whitehead’s brief address was followed by words from Anthony Price, head of the Electricity Storage Network, Ben Wilson, director of strategy and chief financial officer at UK Power Networks, Rachel Ruffle, development director of renewable energy firm RES’ UK and Ireland division and Mike Wilks, director at Poyry Management Consultants.

The event was also attended by Professor Lord Ron Oxburgh who spoke passionately and knowledgably about the subject and addressed wider concerns around energy and the UK’s future. Non-executive chairman of oil company Shell, from 2004 to 2005, Oxburgh, a geophysicist and geologist, remarkably spent much of his tenure there arguing for the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and to develop alternative energy sources.

Solar Power Portal interviewed Labour MP Whitehead to ask about the event and the importance he placed on electricity storage as a future component of the energy mix.

“The point about electricity storage centrally is that as the nature of energy deployment changes, as the mix of energy changes towards predominance of renewables with traditional forms of energy playing a back-up role, rather than a central role, that mix is going to be much more variable,” he said.

“Nevertheless, generating a very large amount of electricity over the next period, the role of electricity storage is going to become more and more central to making sure the system is balanced, it’s working well and we get the best out of whatever the mix is. In a sense, electricity storage may well be seen – should be seen I think – as the glue that holds the rest of the system together.”

The network’s call for greater focus on the energy storage sector echoes the call-to-arms issued by former UK chief scientific advisor Sir David King and economist Lord Richard Layard in January. Speaking at an event entitled ‘Running out of time – climate change’, King and Layard had called for an “Apollo-style push”, a multilateral mission for national governments to collaborate on developing energy storage.

Britain’s Institution of Mechanical Engineering (IMechE) also issued a technical evaluation of the UK’s energy situation in April, assessing different storage options for energy used in heating and transport as well as electricity. Anthony Price of the Electricity Storage Network told Solar Power Portal at the Houses of Parliament event that his organisation’s new report took various discussions and exchanges of information and data with IMechE into account.