Top names have signed up to support the Energy Storage division of Solar Power Portal's publisher Solar Media, which has launched a series of events and media activities for next year, targeting the UK’s nascent industry.

Germany’s market leader in the residential storage space, Sonnenbatterie, multi-national grid-scale storage developer NEC Energy Solutions, solar inverter maker SMA and “green utility” Ecotricity are just some of the big names already signed up as partners to Energy Storage.

With the involvement of the PV Tech Storage editorial team, Energy Storage has been fact-finding and meeting with stakeholders to get the clearest idea of the best ways to help the industry grow, in both PV-related and non-PV applications for energy storage.

There is a sense of urgency in the timing, as Britain's renewable energy industry appears to be on the brink of severe cuts to policy support. Residential solar feed-in tariff (FiTs) rates are expected to be cut by as much as 87%, rendering the support mechanism essentially meaningless.

David Hunt, chief of Hyperion Executive Search, a recruitment agency specialising in renewables, told Solar Power Portal's sister site PV Tech Storage he believed the UK solar market will be a challenging one for at least the next year and a half. Hunt was himself a solar installer in Britain before setting up Hyperion.

“Clearly the UK policy landscape for the solar sector is at present is not good, cuts to the RO [Renewable Obligations] and proposed cuts to the FiT will make the UK a difficult market for the next 12-18 months,” Hunt said.

“There may be a surprise in the consultation results coming, but the likelihood is a tough period in the UK with some closures and consolidation.”

While for the most part manufacturers, which typically spread their risk over a number of markets, are less affected, as has been seen in Germany, many solar installers and developers are now taking a closer look at energy storage. In some cases, companies have been diversifying to include storage alongside their solar offerings, or in other cases, mothballing solar operations and switching over to storage. With incentives gone, the business case for storage at household level is likely to be found in self-consuming PV power generated onsite, which would lead to savings on electricity bills over time. 

“Like most companies in the renewables sector we have had to adapt, and are helping many of our clients who are doing the same,” Hunt said. 

“Of course developers and installers alike are looking at other technologies to balance the loss of solar income and opportunities. Energy storage is by far the hottest topic in the industry at present, from utility scale for the developers, to domestic scale for the installers. Installers see storage as a logical step; most are in essence electrical contractors, so the technology isn’t too difficult to grasp, and many have a database of ‘low hanging fruit’ existing customers for whom they have installed solar PV, some of whom are on the highest FIT tariffs. Offering to retrofit energy storage to these is the obvious first step.”

Energy Storage events and media

There are clearly both barriers and opportunities ahead. The need to solve these and other problems, as well as offering reinforcement of the more positive aspects of the industry and to get the message out on what storage can do, for the environment and for flexibility in the electricity network, has inspired the Energy Storage team under the leadership of new division director Dan Caesar to put together a calendar of events.

Starting this week with a closed-doors steering committee discussion on Friday about the prospects for commercial-scale energy storage in the UK, the division will also go on to host Energy Storage Business Models in London in February, looking at the best ways to monetise those business models.

After that, in April, the company will host the Energy Storage Summit at Twickenham Stadium, which recently hosted matches in the Rugby Union World Cup, as well as Energy Storage 100, a celebration of the 100 most influential companies in the space.

Finally, Solar Media’s flagship show, Solar Energy UK, which is in Birmingham in the third quarter of each year, will host Energy Storage UK for the second time after a successful first outing this year.

As David Hunt of Hyperion said, there are clearly challenges in establishing an energy storage industry, both within the context of what it can do for solar and as a standalone industry. Yet despite what we have seen in the past few months in renewables policy, the UK, closing in on 9GW of installed PV generation capacity, is attracting interest from around the world for storage.

“Along with Australia the UK is certainly a key target market for storage manufacturers, certainly those with solutions for the domestic sector, such as Sonnenbatterie and Aquion (maker of the Aqueous Hybrid Ion battery),” Hunt said.

“An established base of installed PV, and a receptive and established network of distributors and installers makes entry relatively easy and attractive. There are many similarities with the UK and the German markets, and logically there is an assumption that the UK will follow suit on storage as it has on solar.”

Partners to have already signed up include Sonnenbatterie, British Solar Renewables, Ecotricity, NEC Energy Solutions, Wattstor, Green Acorn, Sunamp, Rexel, CCL components, SMA, Cumulus, ChargeSync, Hyperion, Camborne Capital and Smart Power Systems.

Solar Media is the publisher of Solar Power Portal and Next Energy News as well as the international sites PV Tech and PV Tech Storage.  For more information on the Energy Storage division and related platforms and events, contact Liam Callaghan, Account Manager. Email: [email protected]