The Energy Systems Catapult has unveiled a modelling tool that aims to show how storage and flexibility technologies can help the UK to decarbonise at least cost.
On 7 November, the Catapult said that early indicative runs of the Storage and Flexibility Model (SFM) – commissioned by the Energy Technologies Institute and developed by Baringa – had found that a least-cost 2050 energy system would require “significantly more” electric and thermal energy storage than had previously been thought. For example, if an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 – in relation to 1990 levels – is to be achieved, then almost 1,400GWh of electric and thermal storage volume will be needed, according to the model. This is 55% higher than previous estimations.
In this base scenario, the SFM found that flexibility could be provided through multi-vector integration. It noted this was key to how technologies are operated. Other insights included that new gas storage capacity was unlikely to be required owed to decarbonisation in heat and electricity sectors, while existing gas storage capacity was deemed to be sufficient to soak up potential increased variability in gas supply stemming from intermittent electricity generation.
It tested a second scenario, alongside the base case, in which there was no Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). In the no CCS case, the need for heat and electricity storage increases was found to grow even further.
Key insights included that energy demands were further electrified to enable decarbonisation in other sectors, and flexibility usually provided by CCGTs with CCS in the base scenario is replaced by flexible technologies in all sectors. This sees an additional 28GW of hot water storage capacity required in the heat sector by 2050 and electricity storage capacities doubling to 150GW.
The Catapult stressed that the findings required further investigation, adding that it is also planning to run the SFM according to the government’s net zero 2050 target.
Alex Buckman, Networks and Energy Storage Practice Manager at the Energy Systems Catapult, explained that as the UK energy system continues to decarbonise, it will become increasingly challenging to balance supply and demand, with the way energy is produced, transported, stored and used having to change. The SFM has been built in response to this challenge.
How does it work?
Buckman continued: “The Storage and Flexibility Model fills a crucial space in the current energy system modelling landscape, enabling us to see more clearly than ever how energy storage and flexibility could help the UK transition to net zero at least cost. These insights are relevant in a number of use-cases, including long-term capacity planning, assessing the value of specific storage technologies, and identifying the service requirements of future energy systems.”
Along with being able to discover new insights applicable to many use-cases, other key advantages of the SFM include its capability to represent multiple vectors, network levels, geographic regions and timeframes; its ability to represent long-term and short-term operational uncertainties; and the way in which it is complementary to the Energy System Modelling Environment (ESME). The ESME, while providing less detail relating to storage, is able to “more expeditiously” explore the rest of the energy system, explained the Catapult.
Looking ahead, the Catapult is offering to have its experts work with organisations in the sector, including government, energy technology innovators and network operators, to gain insights from the SFM. Its modelling team will be able to offer services such as whole system modelling and analysis. Here, an understanding of energy systems from both national and regional levels will be provided, revealing the most cost-effective route to a smarter, lower carbon, decentralised and more flexible system.
The modelling team can also assist with whole system modelling and analysis outputs to help decision-makers put strategies in place for different transition pathways, as well as expert advice and collaboration. The Catapult said it will aim to promote greater cohesion across the sector through actively encouraging businesses, policymakers, regulators and investors to consider things from a whole system perspective.