The UK’s lack of renewable energy storage cost the country £60bn ($71.7bn) between October 2022 and January 2023 due to wasted wind energy and imported gas during the winter energy crunch, shows a new analysis commissioned by long duration energy storage developer Highview Power and carried out by global strategy consultancy Stonehaven.
The UK was unable to store 1.35 terawatt-hours (TWh) of wind power during peak conditions over the four months studied, enough to power 1.2 million homes daily with clean energy, because of the absence of renewable energy storage, according to the report.
This forced the country to rely on £60bn worth of foreign gas imports during the “dunkelflaute” – cold, still days with little to no wind but still requiring energy for heating, says Highview Power. For comparison, the UK imported nearly £20bn of gas in 2021, show figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), which was in turn a 312% increase on 2020’s £4.8bn.
“Renewables are by far the cheapest form of electricity [production],” says Highview Power, citing £60/MWh versus more than £3,000/MWh, the level at which the cost of importing gas for electricity peaked last year.
“By capturing and storing excess renewable energy, we can power Britain’s homes and businesses with renewable green energy, taking millions of tonnes of carbon out of the atmosphere and ending a culture of reliance on expensive foreign imports,” said Highview Power CEO Rupert Pearce in a press statement.
The company plans to invest £10bn in building 20 grid-scale renewable energy storage sites across the UK in the next decade, using its liquid air energy storage technology. “Long-duration energy storage can underpin the UK’s world-leading position on renewables, accelerate the energy transition, create thousands of British clean energy jobs and skills, cut UK consumer bills and reduce our dependence on foreign gas,” added Pearce.
Meanwhile, amid controversy over the construction of the new Woodhouse Colliery coal mine in Cumbria, Danish multinational engineering company Danfoss has called for a coordinated international effort to reduce energy demand across the UK and Europe more widely to eliminate the need for new fossil fuel projects.
“By improving energy efficiency in the UK by just 3.4%, we could save the equivalent of 38.52Mtoe – the energy produced by the new Woodhouse Colliery coal mine in Cumbria [across its entire 24-year existence] – in just eight years,” said Danfoss in a press release.
“Focusing on energy efficiency would be a significant opportunity for all countries and businesses, leading to reduced CO2 emissions by an additional 5Gt [gigatonnes] per year by 2030, about a third of the total emission abatement needed in the IEA’s Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario,” said Daniel Scott, vice president of Danfoss Climate Solutions for Northern Europe.
He added: “And for households, enhanced efficiency-related actions could contribute to lowering the global energy bill by at least $650bn a year by 2030. As things currently stand, any gaps from a potential or perceived gas shortfall can be filled comfortably by new energy efficiency measures.”
Danfoss and Highview Power’s analyses suggest the UK is missing out on a cheaper, faster energy transition by choosing foreign gas imports and coal mines over energy efficiency and renewable energy storage.