Thursday, April 11, 2024

How energy storage can ease the UK’s fuel poverty problems

Jason Howlett, GivEnergy CEO

In 2022, an estimated 13.4% – or 3.26 million – households in England were in fuel poverty. For 2023, the projection sees this rise to 14.4%, or 3.53 million households[1].

Unfortunately, tackling the UK’s fuel poverty problem is no mean feat. Policies, prices, and political agendas can change rapidly. The most certain and sustainable way of easing fuel poverty, then, is to directly improve home energy efficiency.

And one enormous opportunity to do so lies in energy storage technology.

Putting energy storage on the political agenda

If you haven’t heard much from the government regarding energy storage technology as a means to combat fuel poverty, it’s because the two points have not yet been adequately connected.

The UK government is taking valid steps to improve home energy efficiency. However, these steps could go further. For example, the Future Homes Standard will future-proof new dwellings with energy-efficient heating systems, while also improving thermal efficiency and air tightness levels. Though a welcome initiative, energy storage is conspicuously absent from this directive.

Or, consider the British Energy Security Strategy. The strategy furthers support for new nuclear, offshore wind and heat pumps. Once more, however, the deliverance of a complementary energy storage strategy has been overlooked.[2]

Or take the data from Cornwall Insight, which indicates that the government must invest £20bn in battery storage by 2030 to meet its renewables goals.[3] That’s nearly a fifth of the government’s total investment in energy technologies.

Energy storage, then, has not yet been implemented at the government level. Sadly, this comes at the detriment of home energy efficiency – and in turn, at the detriment of UK fuel poverty.

A lack of awareness

The failure to put energy storage at the heart of government initiatives further obscures awareness of an overlooked – and often little-understood – technology. As a case in point, we can look at the use of home solar contrasted to the use of home batteries.

As you might expect, UK bill-payers are looking to alleviate their energy concerns. Many are now turning to familiar technologies such as solar panels. Indeed, data from eBay found that searches for solar panels were up 45% in 2022[4]. Meanwhile, roughly 1.2 million homes in the UK already have solar panel installations.[5]

However, in 2019, just 10,000 homes in the UK were using battery storage.[6] Though demand for battery storage has escalated in the last few years, a sizeable gap between the number of homes with solar PV and the number of homes with storage batteries remains.

One of the reasons for this gap is a simple lack of awareness of the benefits of storage batteries when paired with solar. Battery storage is a fairly new technology. No government initiatives currently incentivise its adoption. But to end UK fuel poverty, that needs to change.

Home energy storage: the missing piece of the puzzle

Using a renewable power source is a positive step towards saving money on energy bills. But without the capacity to store up energy, it remains a relatively small step.

Hundreds of thousands of homes across the UK are generating free solar power with no means to store it. Occupants can’t save any excess energy for later use. So, though they may be generating green energy during the day when the sun is shining, they’re still drawing expensive energy from the grid in the evenings.

Only with battery storage can occupants stop drawing from the grid during peak times, and thereby reduce their energy bills more meaningfully.

Beyond renewables

Lack of awareness on energy storage also contributes to the misconception that storage batteries require solar panels in the first instance. A storage battery will still work effectively without solar – simply by drawing cheap energy from the grid overnight and discharging it during peak times. Indeed, bill-payers can save £1500 per year on their energy bills with a storage battery alone. (According to real-world data from our energy monitoring software.)

The efficiency of standalone storage batteries throws open the potential for every bill-payer to ease their fuel poverty. Flat owners can use compact batteries that will fit under a counter. Renters don’t need to fork out for solar installations. The classic three-bed semi-detached can run itself on cheap off-peak power.

Simply, in a world where policies may come and go, and prices may fluctuate – a storage battery will allow homes to run on clean, cost-effective battery power come what may.







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