Boris Johnson’s support for Britain’s “world leading” battery sector risks being undermined by government policy, according to the industry.
A coalition of trade groups and technology firms have written an open letter to the Guardian that calls for urgent changes to policies they say threaten to hold the sector back.
Johnson used his first speech as prime minister in the House of Commons last month to support Britain’s burgeoning battery manufacturing industry, which he said was leading the world.
However, battery makers and operators fear that a string of policy changes, such as the decision to increase VAT on home batteries from 5% to 20% from October, could scupper growth in the sector despite the increasing need to build a more flexible energy system.
The Renewable Energy Association (REA) joined Beama (British Electrotechnical and Allied Manufacturers’ Association) to warn Johnson that his words now require action.
“The government has set out strong ambitions for the UK to be a world leader in flexible generation … However, their rhetoric is not being matched by action,” they write.
“In the last two years Ofgem has removed embedded benefits for distributed generation and storage, derated benefits for batteries in the capacity market and eliminated feed-in-tariffs for rooftop solar. Government now also plans to increase network charges and hike VAT for homeowners who invest in residential solar and storage.
“If the new prime minister is serious about maximising the advantages from the shift to decentralised energy, the government must set clearer targets and a roadmap for reform of our electricity system and show greater urgency in putting in place the framework for an open market in flexible generation.”
The trade groups were joined by energy storage companies, including Zenobe Energy and iBMS Solutions, which said poor policy threatened to undermine the UK battery industry.
The report by consultants at Wood MacKenzie predicted that Europe’s home battery capacity could rise fivefold in the next five years but the UK would lag behind owing to the British government’s “unfavourable” policies.
Since then energy storage companies have called on National Grid to build a bigger backup reserve with more batteries after Britain’s biggest blackout in more than a decade.
Nina Skorupska, the chief executive of the REA, said the rapid roll-out of cheap renewable energy required a global move towards smart technology to help integrate wind and solar power.
“British companies are at the fore of navigating this shift and if we successfully build a thriving market for storage at home it will strengthen our hand when it comes time to export these technologies abroad,” she said.
Skorupska added: “It’s an exciting time for this sector, but cuts affecting battery deployment in homes, businesses, and co-located with generations sites seriously undermine our potential global competitiveness in the future.”