UK battery capacity is poised to grow up to 100 times by 2020.

The UK needs solutions that will keep the lights on and meet our decarbonisation targets while keeping electricity affordable. Coal plants will close by 2025 and around two-thirds of existing power stations are expected to reach the end of their lives by 2030.

Leading purchaser of power from independent energy generators SmartestEnergy has published a new report outlining the role of energy entrepreneurs and their influence in creating a low carbon energy network.

These entrepreneurs have demonstrated that they can build clean, renewable generation at scale, quickly and cost-effectively and can play a crucial role in developing a low carbon energy system in the UK.

Today, energy entrepreneurs outside the traditional electricity supply sector supply 8.6 per cent of UK electricity demand. They have invested £2.75 billion in more than 6,400 renewable projects with a combined capacity of 12.75GW – enough to power a quarter of all households.

The renewables industry has been rocked by sudden and steep subsidy cuts. The UK has slipped from 4th to 14th place in EY’s index of the most attractive countries for renewable investment, and money is going elsewhere. Growth in renewable projects is at the lowest level since we began publishing the Energy Entrepreneurs report.

Nearly two thirds of this capacity
- 8GW - has been built in the last four years. Independent solar
parks now generate 16 times more power than in 2012 and power from independent onshore wind has more than doubled.

But subsidies have been slashed and the investment climate for traditional renewable energy technologies is plagued by uncertainty and short term strategies.

Energy entrepreneurs are now looking at new ways to accelerate the low carbon energy network and are at the forefront of the storage revolution. Only 20MW of commercial batteries were in operation in the UK in 2016, but independents have already won contracts that will see 558MW in place by 2020. Furthermore, over 150 projects are in planning, representing up to 2.3GW in aggregate.

To put the achievements of the independent energy entrepreneurs in context it is worth noting that plans for new nuclear plants at Hinkley Point and Moorside are beset by delays and questions over commercial viability. Hinkley Point C, which will power 6 million homes, is expected to cost £18 billion and will take 10 years to build.

Many forms of renewables are of course intermittent technologies, but rapid growth of battery storage could help to bring more capacity to the grid, balance supply and demand, and provide reliable back-up power.

Our report reveals the dynamism of energy entrepreneurs and the contribution they are making
to our energy system. But it also demonstrates the crucial importance of a stable policy framework.
Scotland’s draft energy strategy recognises this and sets an ambitious target for renewables to supply half of Scotland’s entire energy needs by 2030 across power, heat and transport.

The UK government’s new industrial strategy will provide a similar opportunity to recognise the vital role that renewables and storage can play. MPs on the influential Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy select committee have called for decarbonisation to be at its heart.

If government provides political support, a stable policy environment and a level playing field with traditional generation, independent energy entrepreneurs can continue to play a key part in achieving a reliable, cost-effective, low-carbon energy system.