13 Jul 2023
Neil Weaver

Future Energy Scenarios 2023: the need for battery energy storage

National Grid ESO has published its annual Future Energy Scenarios report, which sets out potential routes to decarbonization in Great Britain. It’s a wide-ranging document that covers the use of energy across society - not only within our energy system, but also in homes, in transport, and elsewhere.

Neil looks at how battery capacity targets in the FES compare to Modo’s buildout report.

It provides credible roadmaps for Britain to try to reach its net-zero targets - in the form of four ‘scenarios’. So, what can these newly updated scenarios tell us about battery energy storage?

Current capacity is falling short of requirements -but should pick up quickly

Right now, battery energy storage capacity in Great Britain is at around 2.9 GW. This is similar to the requirements of the ESO’s ‘Falling Short’ scenario - the slowest, least ambitious of the four scenarios laid out in the report.

However, according to our March 2023 battery buildout report, Britain can expect around 13 GW of batteries by the end of 2026. This will bring us much closer to the requirements of the report’s more ambitious scenarios.

If all the batteries with 2023 commission dates come online before the end of the year, Britain will be meeting the requirements of three (out of four) scenarios. It would mean hitting 5 GW of overall battery energy storage capacity.

That said, many sites are delayed - check out recent buildout analysis for more details. Because of this, we have revised our projection downwards to be more in-line with recent buildout patterns.

Batteries are now the dominant storage technology in Britain - and will remain so

In June, battery energy storage became the dominant storage technology in Britain - overtaking pumped hydro for the first time.

And there’s no putting the genie back in the box. All four scenarios see battery capacity continuing to increase at a pace that far outstrips pumped hydro.

We don’t actually need all of the planned batteries - but they won’t all get built

As the Future Energy Scenarios report states, “storage capacity in the TEC register for 2035 far exceeds the levels required in ‘Leading the Way’ (the fastest, most ambitious scenario)”. But not all of these batteries will get built.

  • There is roughly 35 GW of planned battery energy storage capacity in the latest Renewable Energy Planning Database (REPD). (This database covers the planning status of both transmission- and distribution-connected assets.)
  • This is around 10 GW more capacity Britain will need by 2035 - in the ‘Leading the Way’ scenario.
  • There is around 53 GW of battery capacity with transmission connection agreements, according to the Transmission Entry Capacity (TEC) register.
  • This is 28 GW more capacity than Britain will need by 2035 (more than double the estimated requirements).

However, we’re extremely unlikely to see anything like 28 GW of surplus battery capacity. The ESO estimates that “only 30-40% of projects in the queue make it to fruition”.

Ultimately, it will likely take some pretty big changes - to regulation, infrastructure, and financing - for Britain to reach 25 GW of battery energy storage (and “lead the way”) by 2035.