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Integrated, Market-fit and Affordable Grid-scale Energy Storage (IMAGES)

Integrated, Market-fit and Affordable Grid-scale Energy Storage (IMAGES)

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IMAGES is a research project funded by EPSRC. The project is led by the University of Warwick in collaboration with the University of Nottingham, Loughborough University and British Geological Survey. The research team formed by a group of experienced academics from a number of related fields including: Power and Control, Dynamics, Renewable Energy, Geology, Economics, Energy Security, Mathematics, Electrical Networks and Systems, Power Electronics and Industrial Economics. The project has the support from thirteen industrial partners.

Summary of the project

It is accepted that UK energy networks face a number of unprecedented challenges in the upcoming decades. These challenges include the threat to the security of energy supply due to declining indigenous fossil fuel reserves, increased reliance on imported fossil fuel (78% of coal and 50% of natural gas are imported, it is predicted that gas import will be over 80% in 2020), and planned retirement of ageing generation capacity over the next decade (approximately 20GW or 25% of the existing generation capacity); decarbonising electricity generation to achieve the goal of 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050; and coping with the future increases in electricity demand from electrification of transportation and space heating. To address these great challenges, it is recognized that the UK energy networks, must change, strategically and the existing regulatory arrangements should be examined to check if they are fit for the purpose of future energy network operations.

To ensure that power supply closely matches demand, the amount of electricity generated must be well controlled and managed. If the balance between supply and demand is broken and the difference exceeds a critical level, the power system may fail and cause a regional blackout. The UK is especially vulnerable in terms of network stability as it has a relatively isolated small island power network. Currently, 80% of our electricity is generated from fossil fuel (coal or gas) with the load balancing function mainly managed through fossil fuel peaking generation plants that respond to load changes. The mix of electricity generation in the UK will change dramatically with a large reduction in the use of coal and gas and an increase in the clean variable, intermittent renewable energy generators. The inherent energy storage capability that we currently enjoy due to our dependence on fossil fuel power generation will then be greatly reduced by 2030.

Solutions are needed to address the network challenges that will occur due to a decrease in the implicit energy storage available with the planned reduction in fossil fuel power generation and the integration of large amounts of unpredictable intermittent renewable sources. Energy storage can provide manifold values in i) help meeting of peaky large scale electrical loads, ii) providing time varying energy charge management, iii) allowing renewable power generation to be stored to alleviate intermittence, iv) improving power quality/reliability, v) meeting remote load needs, vi) storage for management of distributed power generation, etc. This proposed research programme will focus on the challenging technical and economic issues faced by integrating large grid scale energy storage with the energy network.

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