COP26 in Glasgow last November may seem a long time ago now, but the importance of the net-zero commitments made at the event could not be more starkly obvious than amid the tragedy taking place in Ukraine as a result of the Russian invasion.

While mindful of the desperate situation in Ukraine, which is on the minds of all of us right now, the resultant geopolitical fallout has seen a spike in global fuel prices. For the UK, it has added far greater urgency to achieving better energy efficiency and less exposure to the global market, while also meeting its COP26 net-zero commitments.

The net-zero commitments have become the standard with a clear but nonetheless challenging road map to net-zero emissions in 2050 from the International Energy Agency, but the demand for solutions and systems to meet them appears to have surpassed the supply. However, the most significant lever we can pull today is right in front of us.

Since COP26, the 54% increase to the energy price cap in April and the spike in fuel prices – Brent crude is up nearly 70% since the start of the year, while the price of natural gas has more than trebled – has escalated the importance of energy self-sufficiency. The obvious solution is to accelerate the development and deployment of renewable energy systems. Yet, more is needed than just renewables.

Battery energy storage is part of the solution

Renewable energy systems are a critical source of energy, but the rapidly developing battery energy storage system (BESS) sector is very much part of the solution, too. For investors, the BESS sector offers a real opportunity for strong and stable long-term returns, which is why the technology is described as one of the most significant areas of investment in the energy transition story. It is one for investors with an interest in sustainable growth and offsetting the current inflationary pressures.

Renewables and battery storage have a symbiotic relationship. While renewables play a key part in the transition to net zero, they are limited by intermittency and curtailment – sometimes the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. This can create volatility and instability within the UK grid. It matters because low-carbon sources accounted for 21.5% of the UK energy supply in 2020 and that will grow significantly over the next decade.

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Yet, amid all the talk about renewables and clever ways to cut carbon emissions, the issue of energy loss within the distribution infrastructure – before it even reaches its end users – tends to be overlooked. This is where BESS technology plays an important part.

More than half (54%) of electricity produced in the UK is lost in the electricity system from the conversion, transmission and distribution of energy before it reaches homes and businesses. It is a fact that goes largely unnoticed. In 2020, 3.6 terawatt-hours of wind power was curtailed – enough to power one million homes for a year. This shouldn’t happen – the technology for a solution is already available.

Enabling a more efficient energy system

BESS technology can play a crucial role in enabling a more efficient energy system and help to resolve some of the limitations of renewable energy. It is an area in which Triple Point Energy Efficiency Infrastructure Company (TEEC), an investment trust that invests exclusively in a diversified portfolio of energy efficiency assets in the UK, is a market leader.

TEEC recognises that there has been a vital roll-out of clean energy generation from solar and wind sources, but insufficient capital has gone into storage of the energy generated. It recently secured under exclusivity a near-term pipeline of £108m of grid-scale battery energy storage systems assets that will help to drive efficiency in the UK electricity system.

It is a fact that the deployment of such batteries to date is not aligned with the existing deployment of renewable energy generation. BESS technology therefore needs to grow significantly to catch up.

By the end of 2021, the UK was forecast to have total installed capacity of 1.3GW of BESS in the UK. This is expected to double by 2027 and double again by 2035, according to independent research.

TEEC funding extends across the entire UK energy system, covering generation, distribution and consumption. For investors, BESS offers a variety of revenue streams and a strong, stable, long-term outlook. Typically, battery projects can provide returns in excess of 9%, with recent performance suggesting a robust equity investment case. Against a backdrop of market uncertainty and inflation at 5.5%, battery energy storage presents an attractive investment.