Anticipated announcements by the UK government and energy regulator this spring will be pivotal to businesses' plans to develop and commercialise new energy storage technologies, an expert has said.

Specialist in commercial energy contracts Lindsay Edwards of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said there has been "a shift in the language used to describe energy storage" in recent months as new energy storage technologies have come to prominence.

However, Edwards said that onus is on the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and Ofgem to clarify the regulatory and commercial environment to ensure the most viable innovations can come into mainstream use.

"Whereas there has long been a recognition of the importance of energy storage and of the need to accelerate its development, there is now talk of a ‘breakthrough’ in the technology," Edwards said. "A sense of excitement and imminence, absent to-date, has been injected into the debate. This is extremely welcome: effective, commercially viable energy storage will be essential if we are to integrate renewable energy technologies and cut ties to expensive nuclear and carbon intensive fossil fuel base load generation." 

"However, questions remain as to whether the regulatory regime has kept pace with the rate of progress being made on the technological side. Numerous regulatory inconsistencies remain. An example includes the way energy storage is current classified – as 'generation' – which prevents it being owned or operated by distribution network operators. These regulatory barriers must be ironed out if the technology is to be scaled up and commercialised successfully," she said.

Edwards said, though, that both DECC and Ofgem have shown awareness of the fact that regulations can sometimes serve as a barrier to innovation in the energy market.

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