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US-UK Scientific Forum on Sustainable Energy: Electrical Storage in Support of the Grid, Forum Report


The effort to meet the ambitious targets of the Paris agreement is challenging many governments. The US and UK governments might have different approaches to achieving the targets, but both will rely heavily on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar to power their economies. However, these sources of power are unpredictable and ways will have to be developed to store renewable energy for hours, days, weeks, seasons, and maybe even years before it is used. As the disruptive and increasingly deadly impacts of climate change are being felt across the world, the need to move to more sustainable sources of energy, and to identify viable ways to store that energy, has never been more important.
This was the subject of the US–UK Science Forum on electrical storage in support of the grid, which was held online from 17 – 18 March 2021. Co-organised by the Royal Society and the National Academy of Sciences, it brought together a diverse group of 60 scientists, policy makers, industry leaders, regulators and other key stakeholders for a wide-ranging discussion on all aspects of energy storage, from the latest research in the field to the current status of deployment. It also considered the current national and international economic and policy contexts in which these developments are taking place. A number of key points emerged from the discussion. First, it is clear that renewable energy will play an increasingly important role in the US and UK energy systems of the future, and energy storage at a multi-terawatt hour scale has a vital role to play. Of course, this will evolve differently to some extent in both countries and elsewhere, according to the various geographical, technological, economic, political, social and regulatory environments. Second, international collaboration is critical – no single nation will solve this problem alone. As two of the world’s leading scientific nations, largest economies, and per capita CO2 emitters, with a long track record of collaboration, the US and UK are well placed to play a vital role in addressing this critical challenge. As the discussion highlighted, a wide range of energy storage technologies are now emerging and becoming increasingly available, many of which have the potential to be critical components of a future net-zero energy system. A crucial next phase is in ensuring that these are technically developed as well as economically and political viable. This will require the support of a wide range of these potential solutions to ensure that their benefits remain widely available, and to avoid costly ‘lock-in’. Scientists and science academies have a critical role to play in analysing technology options, their combinations, and their potential roles in future sustainable energy systems, and in working with policymakers to incentivise investment and deployment.

Related subjects: Policy & Socio-Economics

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