Years Active: 2009-2014

Summary

The aim of this project was to clarify both the potential for, and limitations of, the role of thermal energy storage in the transition to a sustainable low carbon energy supply system in the UK.

Further Information

The provision of heating and cooling currently accounts for approximately 49% of primary energy use in the UK. To achieve the target of 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 it is essential that fossil fuel generated energy used for heating and cooling is substantially reduced or substituted by a sustainable energy resource. Effective thermal energy storage can play a significant role in both reducing energy demand by allowing currently wasted heat to be exploited and enabling variable renewable energy resources to be better utilised.

Thermal energy storage systems can be on a wide range of scales and are characterised by their thermal capacity, operational temperature and charge/discharge cycle frequency. Key characteristics include energy storage density, charge/discharge rates and effectiveness, parasitic heat loss and/or energy degradation. A systems approach is essential to provide a realistic view of performance in addition to the thermal store capital costs and operational energy requirements. The energy losses and infrastructure costs associated with distribution systems involved in bringing heat to the store or taking heat from the store to the load are also of critical importance in determining system viability.

The aim of this project was to clarify both the potential for, and limitations of, the role of thermal energy storage in the transition to a sustainable low carbon energy supply system in the UK. This aim was met by the following five major objectives:

  • Compile a database to capture examples of deployment/demonstration of thermal energy storage systems in the UK and internationally.
  • Review current thermal energy storage system research to determine key characteristics, costs, maturity and additional research requirements.
  • Characterise application areas for thermal energy storage in the UK currently, and ‘future cast’ based on predicted energy costs and supply characteristics for 3 scenarios (to be agreed with UKERC) to 2050.
  • For low, medium and high levels of implementation, analyze the potential reductions in primary energy use/CO2 production that can be realised, the associated costs and potential secondary benefits, the technical and non-technical barriers, and
  • Investigate in detail the role that thermal energy storage could have in managing energy generation and distribution systems with large scale penetration of renewable energy within the UK energy network.

Key Outputs