Dr Marek Kubik, strategic advisor, AES Corporation discusses the role for energy storage technology and solar to work together and how the success of existing pilot schemes could surprise people. He will be one of a number of expert speakers at the upcoming Large-Scale Solar UK conference in Bristol.

What opportunities do storage technologies offer to renewable energy?

Energy storage overcomes one of the key image problems that renewable energy sources are often unfairly tarnished with – that because most are intermittent or variable in their output, they cannot drive transformative change in the energy sector. 

Storage can provide both the system flexibility needed to accommodate large volumes of renewables and the potential to provide the bridge to move energy around from when it is generated to when it is needed. Both are key ways of avoiding the curtailment of renewable resources in the name of system security. 

Storage is therefore a natural bedfellow to renewables and the concept is one that is easy for policymakers to grasp. Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine a renewable dominant future energy system without some form of load shifting ability. Storage, whether demand side or grid-scale, really is vital to the future of renewables.

What business critical topic(s) will you be discussing at Large-Scale Solar UK 2015?

First, I want to dispel the misconception that location-dependent pumped hydro is the only viable storage technology. I’ll be looking how other storage is already commercially viable and contributing to reduced emissions, costs and improved system security in systems around the world. I’ll be spilling the beans on how it’s been done.

Second, I’ll be taking stock of the barriers to deployment of storage in markets like the UK and elaborating on why these paradoxically exist despite such technologies being commercial viable.

Finally, through case studies of existing storage projects I’ll be showcasing the versatility of storage technologies and how they can deliver value for virtually any client; be they a TSO, DNO, a conventional or a renewable generator. The size of projects and scale of savings may surprise many.

What’s the single biggest challenge to the development of storage technologies in the UK?

The single biggest challenge is that the existing UK market doesn’t fully reward storage’s flexibility. Quite simply UK balancing services were never designed for the incredibly fast and precise response that can be achieved by storage to respond to an imbalance on the system; whether that’s from a plant trip or from a change in renewable output.

Not rewarding this flexibility is actually costly. If the UK were to adopt a ‘pay for performance’ philosophy, the system could rely on a smaller basket of advanced flexibility services and save a fortune in payments to much less responsive conventional plant. This is the model the PJM market in the United States has adopted, saving US$20m in 2013.

What’s surprised you most in the UK solar market in 2014?

After experiencing a state of turmoil and decline since early 2012, the European solar market returned to some semblance of stabilisation. What’s surprised me is how the solar revolution is continue to happen in a somewhat quiet, understated way. The number of UK panels doubled in a year, and unsurprisingly new generation records were set, yet I find solar makes the headlines much less frequency than topics like wind energy or fracking.

Tweet us your prediction for the UK solar market for 2015/16 in 140 characters!

Increased renewables policy certainty for better or worse, post General Election!

What are you most looking forward to about Large-Scale Solar UK 2015?

The best part of any conference for me always comes from the networking. You never know who you’re going to meet, what you’re going to learn and how you can end up working together. 

Who are you most looking forward to hearing speak at Large-Scale Solar UK 2015?

I’ll be eager to hear what Toddington Harper has to say about Solar Carports. I recently met with Google’s Energy & Sustainability team for a knowledge exchange in Silicon Valley and I think there’s a great synergy between electric vehicles, solar and storage.  Whilst they’re on the cusp of it in sunny California, I’m keen to find out if the same could be true one day in the UK.

What’s your favourite thing about Bristol?

I’ll tell you when I get there! Despite having lived across many parts of the UK and worked in many corners of the world, Bristol is one that I’ve never had the pleasure of more than passing through on the train. (All signs do however point to West Country Cider).

Marek Kubik will be speaking at the Large-Scale Solar UK conference in Bristol, 28-30 April.