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Energy Storage Needs U.K. Government Incentives, Highview Says

The U.K. government should give incentives to promote methods of storing excess power from renewables and releasing it when energy demand is high, said the developer of such a technology, Highview Power Storage.

Failure to introduce incentives will deter investors and cost Britain an industry that Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has said may save as much as 10 billion pounds ($15 billion) a year by 2050, Toby Peters, chief operating officer and co-founder of Highview Power Storage, said in an interview in London.

Investors “can’t see revenue mechanisms today to justify the investment and there aren’t clear market mechanisms or government support,” Peters said. Without assistance from the government, technology will have to be bought from abroad, he said. “We could lose a massive industry to another country.”

Energy storage would help balance supply and demand as Britain aims for 15 percent of its energy to come from intermittent renewable sources by 2020 from about 9.4 percent now. Liquid air storage, such as that being developed by Highview, has the potential to open up an industry worth 1 billion pounds a year to the U.K., a report published May 9 showed.

Highview is developing a system that uses surplus energy to turn air into liquid that can be stored. The liquid air can be turned back into electricity for the grid by adding heat. As it warms up, the air expands 700 times in volume with enough force to drive a piston engine or turbine.

“You need to either give it its own structure and then give it support mechanisms during the early stages such that the City and investor community can make adequate returns, or you do what the government does with new clean technology, which is to give it a subsidy or kick-start,” Peters said.

Highview has been operating a pilot plant in Slough in south-central England for two years that has been feeding electricity into the grid. The next stage is to build a demonstration plant of about 5 megawatts, Peters said. The company plans to raise 1 million pounds to 1.5 million pounds from private investors and family offices by year-end, he said.

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