The Energy Systems Catapult (ESC) has launched a new software modelling tool that can weigh up different scenarios on how national, regional and local energy networks in the UK can use storage and flexibility technologies to decarbonise at least cost.
The Storage and Flexibility Model (SFM) has been developed to create insight into the challenge of balancing supply and demand in the energy system as decisions lay the groundwork for net-zero by 2050.
The ESC says that it can represent future grid scenarios at a second-by-second level, looking across multiple seasons, vectors, network levels and geographic regions.
It is offering the technology to any network operator or energy company that wants to model options for the future of the network.
The tool can also be used by government, policy-making organisations and other energy companies and innovators.
The SFM was commissioned by the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) and developed by management consultancy Baringa.
This tool will provide valuable insights to industry when undertaking a whole systems approach to cost-effective decarbonisation for the UK
Jonatham Wills, chief executive, ETI
The ETI, based at Loughborough University, is closing at the end of 2019, with its staff being transferred to the ESC.
The model can be used to answer questions such as:
taking a whole energy system approach, what is the future role of energy storage and flexibility?
what is the scale of the different future service requirements (eg in MW, MWh) for storage and flexibility?
what is the value of various forms of storage and flexibility to the system?
how do the key drivers of uncertainty (both short and long-term) affect the potential role of storage & flexible alternatives?
Alex Buckman, networks and energy storage practice manager at ESC, said: "As the UK energy system decarbonises, the ways we produce, transport, store and use energy will need to change, resulting in an increasing challenge to balance supply and demand. This will lead to a changing role for storage and competing flexibility technologies.
"Without a deeper understanding of how these technologies could help in balancing energy networks, we will at best end up with a system that costs more than it needs to and at worst one that fails to manage supply and demand.
"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.
"This groundbreaking new model is on offer to any organisations in the sector that want the clearest possible view for what role flexibility could play in our energy system in the not-to-distant future."
The model has already suggested that the least-cost 2050 energy system is likely to require significantly more electric and thermal energy storage than previously thought.
To achieve an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 (compared with 1990 levels), the model calculated a need for nearly 1,400 gigawatt hours of electric and thermal storage volume, 55% higher than previous estimates and equivalent to 125 Dinorwig Power Stations.
This rises even more if carbon capture and storage (CCS) is unavailable, a scenario in which there would be more demand for the electrification of heating, the production of gaseous fuel, and transport.
The SFM will now be re-run to model the more ambitious 2050 target.
Jonathan Wills, chief executive officer at the ETI, said: "We're pleased to have commissioned the Storage and Flexibility Model, as part of our energy storage and distribution programme. This tool will provide valuable insights to industry when undertaking a whole systems approach to cost-effective decarbonisation for the UK.
"As the ETI draws to a close at the end of this year, much of the research from our energy storage and distribution programme is being taken forward by the ESC, to help advance the UK to reach its climate goals. All available data from our 12 years of research is available on our website until 2025."
To coincide with the SFM's launch, a new report, "Balancing Supply and Demand" has been published describing the experience and knowledge gained from developing and running it, what it can be used for and best practice for using it. It can be downloaded here.