More cables, stronger supply chains: two standout themes from the Energy Storage Summit

Written By: Ben Saward
Posted 10 Mar 2023
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The event has only been going eight years, but you could tell how big a deal battery storage is becoming when I attended the Energy Storage Summit recently.

Compared to 2022, the event was easily double the size. More companies, more ideas, and even more passion for this part of the energy transition.

Even so, it felt like every discussion kept coming back to just two core themes: How to build a more robust and sustainable supply chain, and how to speed up connections to the electricity grid. These themes came up again on a panel I spoke on at the event, as well in conversations with many people at the event.

The quicker we do both, the greater the impact battery storage can have on the energy transition.

The supply chain is definitely a hot topic and the truth is, wait times on some components have risen. A big reason for this is the demand for similar components in other clean technologies. This highlights the desire to decarbonise the economy at scale, but it does also make building an effective supply chain more challenging.

Two things can help address this.

The first is building a broader range of options in the supply chain. Our industry is still fairly young and the range of suppliers of both core components like the batteries themselves, and supporting technologies like specialist transformers will benefit from expanding.

New suppliers are emerging all the time given the pace of development in storage. What was encouraging to hear at the Summit was that some companies, like ourselves, are open to nurturing these new options. Ultimately, greater choice means lower cost storage sites, and therefore lower energy bills for households and businesses.

The second aspect that will help is accelerating the use of ‘second-life’ components. Batteries themselves are the most obvious example here and battery recycling more generally is key to electrifying the economy successfully. The quicker storage sites can effectively integrate recycled or second-life batteries into their sites, the better.

This is also where proper life cycle analysis of key components comes in. A great supply chain can’t just be about cheaper components delivered more quickly, especially not for a sector that is trying to lower society’s overall carbon emissions.

That’s why at Field we’ve built an in-depth life cycle analysis model. This interrogates the total carbon footprint of our sites and the components they’re made up of. We’re already using this to push suppliers to create components with a smaller carbon footprint and early results show this is driving productive innovation.

And what about the other hot topic at the Summit – speeding up grid connections? It’s a well-known challenge and again is testament to how many companies are trying to help decarbonise economies.

We are starting to see moves that will help. On the very same day the Storage Summit was being held, the UK’s National Grid announced a plan to reform their rules for grid applications. While this was aimed mostly at renewable energy operators, National Grid confirmed that battery storage sites are in their sights as well.

We’re also starting to see growing political awareness and pressure to address this problem in the UK. And with Europe racing to finalise its Green Deal plan, we should expect momentum around this issue across the continent too.

So, two big issues and various options and efforts to address them. The date for next year’s Energy Storage Summit has already been confirmed and is locked in my diary. Hopefully we’ll hear lots of stories about quicker connections and faster-moving supply chains in one year’s time.