Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Energy storage

This research area covers the study of materials and systems which store electrochemical, thermal or kinetic energy for later use.

Partners involved:
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The scope and what we're doing

The study of the development, application, socio-economic and environmental impact of materials and systems which store energy for later use. This research area covers electrochemical, thermal, mechanical, kinetic and hybrid energy storage, as well as research into integrating energy storage into and with renewable energy sources and power networks. Design and synthesis of novel materials for energy storage, and chemical storage (e.g. Hydrogen) are covered elsewhere in the portfolio.

Activity in this area will be directed towards areas of energy storage beyond electrochemical (for example thermal) research and training. Support for electrical storage will be consolidated and maintained.

Helping the UK to achieve its targets

Due to economic and environmental drivers (for example sustainability and resource efficiency), energy storage technology is of substantial interest to government and industry. This was shown by the announcement and subsequent investments of the Faraday Battery Challenge as part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund as well as relevant government policy, for example Clean Growth Strategy and Road to Zero Strategy.

Specifically, it will have a major impact on the UK’s ability to achieve its ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2050. This strategy aims to support the profound transformation needed to achieve decarbonisation of the whole energy system.

The challenges of energy storage

Energy storage will have to perform a number of functions in future energy networks, not just electricity such as heat. Each will present specific challenges, with storage timescales spanning from seconds (voltage and frequency regulation) to months (seasonal load levelling).

Although academic capacity and funding for electrical storage is high, it has grown from a low base and needs maintaining. Additional capacity is clearly required, however, in the field of thermal storage.

Following feedback from the Energy Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) and the Energy theme priority of systems integration, this research area also needs to focus on establishing an explicit link with the Whole energy systems research area.

Aims

We have a number of aims for this research area.

Support early stage research challenges

We support early stage research challenges and movement into new sectors (such as aerospace), with activity which is discrete from and complimentary to that supported by the Faraday Institution.

Research challenges that are becoming apparent are:

  • grid scale storage
  • thermal storage, including cooling
  • large-scale manufacture
  • networks
  • quality control
  • material recycling
  • health and safety, as the Automotive Council and the Aerospace Technology Institute recognise.

The pipeline for driving new storage technologies to market must be strengthened.

Network scale storage

We aim to focus the electrochemical component of this area’s portfolio on network-scale storage. This includes integration of automotive and network-scale energy storage.

Strengthen links with other research areas

We want to strengthen links and build on strong links with research areas across the EPSRC portfolio, especially with:

Hydrogen storage

We recognise the important role that hydrogen can play in the wider storage landscape. In future, EPSRC will strengthen links with the hydrogen and alternative vectors research community.

Research infrastructure for energy storage

We aim to ensure effective and efficient use of the significant investments in research infrastructure for energy storage. We will also ensure that data generated is curated, accessible and signposted.

Training

We aim to maintain a population and pipeline of trained specialists and ensure that our training is linked to industry’s needs. This is key because energy storage is considered a promising growth sector in the UK economy, as recognised by the government’s Industrial Strategy and Clean Growth Strategy.

This research area is also of potential relevance to the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office’s Official Development Assistance funding streams.

Why we're doing it

Energy Storage allows the decoupling of energy generation from energy demand, allowing power to be used at different times and in different places.

Fossil fuels represent a huge store of energy but, as we move away from them, alternative means of storage must be found. Although the level of storage that the UK requires depends strongly on the whole energy landscape and construction of the energy network, the technology is predicted to play a key role in almost all models of a future low or zero-carbon economy.

In addition, it is a facilitating technology for uptake of renewable electricity generation. UK domestic heat demand fluctuates far more dramatically than domestic electricity demand, leading to strong calls for more focus on storage suitable for use in the heat sector, including thermal storage.

Energy storage researchers

The UK is regarded as having a strong body of energy storage researchers, as recognised by government investment in the Faraday Institution. A diverse academic community is brought together at the Energy Superstore Supergen Centre.

There are concerns, however, that a lot of industrial research and development occurs elsewhere, and that early stage research does not have an obvious pathway to market within the UK. However, the government has invested heavily in the Faraday Battery Challenge (for example, the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre) to alleviate this.

Links to other EPSRC portfolios

Energy Storage is a broad topic and has links to many other portfolios across EPSRC, including:

Many researchers in one area will have interests in one or more of the others, and can move from one to another relatively easily.

View evidence sources used to inform our research strategies.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships. Find out more about research area connections and funding for Energy storage.

Find previously funded projects on Grants on the Web.

Who to contact

Dr. Judith McCann, Portfolio Manager

Email: judith.mccann@esprc.ukri.org

Telephone: 01793 44 4468

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