“Battery storage is going to be an extremely important part of net zero,” says Nick Winser, the UK’s electricity networks commissioner, in an exclusive interview with Solar Power Portal at Solar Media’s Energy Storage Summit EU 2024.

According to Winser, batteries, and more broadly energy storage, will be “very, very important” primarily due to the opportunity they grant to complement variable renewable generation such as solar and wind. Increasing this capacity draws various issues surrounding grid infrastructure, such as curtailment, and energy storage has been touted as a means to mitigate this and ensure energy is not wasted.

Winser, however, is quick to note that there will be a wide range of storage options available to the GB market as it embarks on its journey towards net zero by 2050.

“The whole storage sector is going to be very exciting, and batteries are clearly an extremely important part of it. I think the question before us is, how does that fit with all of the other sources of storage, which all have different attributes?” Winser says.

Clearly Winser sees the opportunity that lays before the GB energy market, particularly with energy storage. However, it is important to support a wide range of storage technologies. For this, the government has been exploring support for a range of storage technologies in its long-duration energy storage (LDES) consultation which launched in early January.

Perhaps one of the biggest questions with regards to the consultation is the omission of lithium-ion batteries. Sources have told Solar Power Portal that this is to ensure that novel technologies can be fully supported alongside lithium-ion battery so that there is a mix of technologies bolstering the GB grid’s energy reserves.

This is a stance supported by Winser, who tells Solar Power Portal: “What we need from the government’s proposals is real encouragement to bring forward storage at speed. We need a variety of different types of storage. Long-term, yes, but also short-term.

“The National Infrastructure Commission’s work on the strategic reserve and the persistent flexibility market, and the short-term storage, give buckets of need. What we’re looking for is for the government to match those and make sure that progress is accelerated.”

One of the biggest challenges associated with the GB energy market is the topic of grid connections, something that has been covered extensively on our sister publication Current±. It is also worth noting that grid connections became somewhat of the “buzzword” during 2023’s edition of the Energy Storage Summit.

This is a topic Winser touches on saying: “We’ve just heard from a fascinating session, which highlighted that the queue is still growing. That’s really concerning.

“In the year that’s gone by there have been some good initiatives on the grid. I mean, the package that was in the Autumn Statement on grid is useful. I think overall, the most important thing will be political stability, and having a government that is very keen to accelerate progress.

“That’s particularly important in the energy transition, because so much of shaping the market and regulation is led by government. Unless government are really driving forward at speed, it’ll be difficult to discover the true value of each of these types of storage.”

With Solar Power Portal’s exclusive interview coming to an end, we questioned Winser on what his key takeaway would be on the energy storage sector.

“The Commission absolutely supports the need for a burgeoning storage sector. There is no doubt that this is going to be vitally important. The Commission has identified volumes and timescales and that says we really have to get this deployed quickly.

“We’ve got 11 years to 2035, and the Commission sees an entirely different energy system appearing in those 11 years.”