Scottish Renewables report: long-duration storage crucial for UK to hit net-zero targets

The UK will fail to meet climate change targets unless it removes barriers to investment in long-duration energy storage projects such as pumped storage hydro, according to a report launched March 24 at Scottish Renewables’ Annual Conference.

The report says the UK’s net-zero legislation — together with the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan, the Energy White Paper and the December 2020 UK national commitment to reduce emissions by 68% by 2030 — all “provide confidence” in the government’s ambition to decarbonize at pace.

But it adds: “However, while they recognize the need for flexibility from long duration storage and other low carbon flexible technologies, there are no specific market mechanisms to ensure this can be delivered.”

The report was produced by Riverswan Energy Advisory and funded by Scottish Renewables, the British Hydropower Association (BHA), Buccleuch, CCSQ, Drax, Intelligent Land Investments Group and SSE Renewables.

“If they(UK Government) do not provide clear pricing signals, then the market risks becoming increasingly inefficient, putting net zero and security of supply at risk, and consumers will be paying more than they need to,” said Mark Wilson, ILI Group chief executive officer. “Without urgent market reform these assets will struggle to be funded.

“As well as being key to the war on climate change, planned Pumped Storage Hydro projects in the UK combined will generate an estimated 10,000 real jobs and generate £3 billion for the economy as we emerge from the pandemic. However, while the Government have been supportive, our planned pump hydro projects are effectively stranded.

“Pump hydro storage is the heavy artillery in the war against climate change. In order for the country to reach 100% renewables, we need to store the energy for when it is needed. Without storage it will be impossible for the UK to reduce dependence on gas and coal-fired power plants and decrease the harmful effects of climate change, from rising sea levels to extreme weather conditions.

“This report highlights the urgent need for the Government to provide the right kind of short-term and long-term signals for investment. A ‘price floor’ mechanism guaranteeing a minimal level of revenue would give confidence to investors and unfreeze these assets — crucial if we are to achieve our climate change goals and crucial for our economic recovery.”

Eddie Rich of the International Hydropower Association (IHA) said: “To become “the Saudi Arabia of wind” as Boris Johnson has pronounced, the UK needs to find ways of storing long duration energy for when the wind doesn’t blow and ways to avoid wasted energy when it blows too much. The only proven, reliable and affordable way to do this at scale is through Pumped Storage Hydro.

“At a global level, this challenge is why almost a 100 organizations — governments, companies, civil society organizations, and international financial institutions — have established the International Forum on Pumped Storage Hydro to seek policies and market instruments to provide this technology sustainability. This timely report will provide solutions. If the UK adopts the recommendations, it can be a global leader in long duration storage, giving real meaning to its climate commitments.”

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