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Clark announces £246m battery technology investment

Words: Laura Edgar
Electric car charging / iStock-587947348-(1)

Energy secretary Greg Clark has launched the first phase of a £246 million government investment in battery technology.

The investment, called the Faraday Challenge by the government, aims to ensure that the UK builds on its strengths and leads the world in the design, development and manufacture of electric batteries.

The four-year investment round is part of the government’s industrial strategy, announced in January 2017. A “coordinated programme” of competitions will aim to boost both the research and development of expertise in battery technology.

The first phase includes a £45 million ‘Battery Institute’ competition to establish a centre for battery research to make technology more accessible and affordable.

An overarching Faraday Challenge Advisory Board is to be established to establish the “coherence and impact of the challenge”, the government said. Professor Richard Parry-Jones, a senior engineering leader and previous chair of the UK Automotive Council, will chair the board.

The first element will be a competition led by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to bring together the best minds and facilities to create a Battery Institute, explained Clark.

“The most promising research completed by the institute will be moved closer to the market through industrial collaborations led by Innovate UK. And the Advanced Propulsion Centre will work with the automotive sector to identify the best proposition for a new state-of-the-art open access National Battery Manufacturing Development facility.”

The energy secretary said that at the core of the challenge is a “recognition that in order for all our citizens to be able to look forward with confidence to a prosperous future, we need to plan to improve our ability to earn that prosperity”.

The Faraday Challenge’s competitions are divided into three streams – research, innovation and scale-up. They are designed to drive a step change in “translating the UK’s world-leading research into market-ready technology”.

Emma Pinchbeck, executive director at RenewableUK, said: “Today is the starting gun for the UK to become the world leader in innovative battery storage technologies. The energy sector agrees that a clean, flexible and modern energy system is the future, a future which relies on a clear vision from the government, working in partnership with businesses.

“Renewables are a mainstream technology, reliably providing over 25 per cent of our electricity. The advent of battery storage is the missing puzzle piece which will allow us to maximise the potential of our world-beating renewable energy resources here in the UK”.

Maria Connolly, partner, head of real estate and leader of the energy and renewables team at law firm TLT, said: “By addressing issues such as the definition of storage, the double charging of network costs and the planning regime, the government has paved a path for energy storage to be deployed on a much wider scale. Over the coming months we would expect to see increased interest in stand-alone projects and deploying behind the meter storage solutions to businesses and individual consumers.  This is an extremely positive move, which will be welcomed by the sector. Following months of news about the impact that the withdrawal of subsidies has had on the industry, it is reassuring to see the government give the renewables sector such a positive boost by getting behind a technology that could look to reinvigorate the sector.”

Clark also said that more than 1,900 written response to the industrial strategy from across the UK have been submitted and the government will respond to the consultation with a white paper later in the year.

Business secretary Greg Clark has also set out plans to give homes and businesses more control over their energy use as part of the industrial strategy.

The government said over a quarter of the UK’s electricity is being generated through renewable sources, such as wind and solar, with a lot it located close to homes and businesses. New technologies that help to store and manage energy are falling in cost.

The plan includes rolling out smart metres, enabling suppliers to offer lower tariffs and making it easier for companies to develop smart appliances and gadgets in order to make sure consumers use energy when it is cheapest or get rewarded for returning it to the grid when it is needed.

The government’s plans also include reviewing the planning regime to look as wether it could be simplified for storage facilities. “Aspects for review could include the national planning threshold for storage facilities and planning guidance associated with storage,” the document featuring the plans states.

Upgrading our Energy System can be found on the UK Government website.

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