Energy storage

The study of the synthesis, characterisation, application and socio-economic and environmental impact of materials and systems which store energy for later use. This research area covers electrochemical, thermal and kinetic energy storage, as well as research into integrating energy storage into renewable energy sources and power networks.

We intend to grow this research area during the current Delivery Plan period. This growth will be directed towards thermal storage research and training; support for electrical storage will be consolidated and maintained.

Due to economic and environmental drivers, Energy Storage technology is of substantial interest to government and industry. 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.

Energy Storage will have to perform a number of functions in future energy networks and each will present specific challenges, with storage timescales spanning from seconds (voltage/frequency regulation) to months (seasonal load levelling). Although academic capacity and funding for electrical storage is medium to 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 (Evidence source 1).

Through this Delivery Plan period, we aim to:

  • Support early-stage research challenges. Electrochemical Energy Storage is starting to see uptake both at network and automotive level, so research challenges are becoming apparent in large-scale manufacture, networks, quality control, material recycling and health & safety, as the Automotive Council and the Aerospace Technology Institute recognise (Evidence source 2,3). The pipeline for driving new storage technologies to market must be strengthened
  • Focus the electrochemical component of this area’s portfolio on network-scale storage and consider automotive-scale Energy Storage (including integration of automotive and network-scale Energy Storage)
  • Strengthen links across the EPSRC portfolio, especially to advances in Materials Engineering (for thermal storage) and Manufacturing Technologies (for scale-up and production), and build on the strong links to Materials for Energy Applications and Electrochemical Sciences. Links to Whole Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency must also be strengthened 
  • Recognise the important role that hydrogen can play in the wider storage landscape. In future, hydrogen-based storage technologies will be included within Energy Storage research opportunities
  • Ensure effective and efficient use of the significant investments in research infrastructure for Energy Storage and that data generated is curated, accessible and signposted  
  • Maintain a population and pipeline of trained specialists and ensure that our training links to industry’s needs. This is key because Energy Storage is considered a promising growth sector in the UK economy

This research area is also recognised as potentially relevant to Official Development Assistance funding streams.

Highlights:

Energy Storage allows 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 (Evidence source 4). 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/zero-carbon economy; in addition, it is a facilitating technology for uptake of renewable electricity generation (Evidence source 5,6). UK domestic heat demand fluctuates far more dramatically than domestic electricity demand, leading to strong calls for more focus on thermal storage.

The UK is regarded as having a strong body of Energy Storage researchers. A diverse academic community is brought together at the Energy Superstore Supergen Centre. There are concerns, however, that a lot of industrial R&D occurs elsewhere and that early-stage research does not have an obvious pathway to market within the UK.

Energy Storage is seen as belonging to a collection of research areas that share a pool of electrochemical researchers (e.g. Fuel Cell Technology, Hydrogen and Alternate Energy Vectors, Materials for Energy Applications, and Electrochemical Sciences). Many researchers in one area will have interests in one or more of the others, and can move from one to another relatively easily. There is also a strong connection between Energy Storage and Energy Networks.

This research area will principally contribute to the following EPSRC Ambitions:

R1: Achieve energy security and efficiency

Energy Storage allows a switch to renewable power generated within the UK and balances short-term discrepancies between demand and supply; the ability to store energy means renewable generation can work for longer periods at higher capacity. Thermal storage provides many opportunities to balance temperature and to use waste heat more efficiently.

R2: Ensure a reliable infrastructure which underpins the UK economy

Energy Storage can provide fast-response tuning to the current network and will support introduction of renewables. In automotive transport, it can help the UK to reach its carbon reduction targets without sacrificing mobility.

P1: Introduce the next generation of innovative and disruptive technologies

Energy Storage will strongly support renewables and alternative network structures (e.g. distributed and micro-generation). It will allow control of demand at all levels, from network to household, and the development of low/zero-carbon vehicles.

P2: Ensure affordable solutions for national needs

Energy Storage reduces the extra generation capacity the network requires and can lower peak demand by averaging the load, reducing the need for network upgrades. It is already becoming a cost-effective solution to network-load related issues (Evidence source 7).

  1. Supergen reviews, event attendance and conversations with relevant bodies
  2. HM Government (Automotive Council UK), Driving Success: A Strategy for Growth and Sustainability in the UK Automotive Sector (PDF), (2013)
  3. Aerospace Technology Institute, Technology Strategy and Portfolio Update (PDF), (2016)
  4. Royal Academy of Engineering, A Critical Time for UK Energy Policy: What Must Be Done Now to Deliver the UK’s Future Energy System, (2015)
  5. HM Government, 2050 Pathways Analysis (PDF), (2010)
  6. Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), Britain’s Power System: The Case for a System Architect, (2014)
  7. Committee on Climate Change, Fifth Carbon Budget (PDF), (2015)

Research area connections

This diagram shows the top 10 connections between Research Areas within the EPSRC research portfolio. The depth of the segment relates to value of grants and the width of the segment relates to the number of grants shared by those two Research Areas. Please click to see the related Research Area rationale.

Grow

We aim to grow this area as a proportion of the EPSRC portfolio.

Visualising our Portfolio (VoP)
Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships.

EPSRC support by research area in Energy storage (GoW)
Search EPSRC's research and training grants.

Contact Details

In the following table, contact information relevant to the page. The first column is for visual reference only. Data is in the right column.

Name: Dr Derek Craig
Job title: Portfolio Manager
Department: Energy
Organisation: EPSRC
Telephone: 01793 444112