UK consumers and businesses could slash up to £40bn off energy bills by 2050 if the nation embraces a technological shake-up. That’s the view of energy watchdog Ofgem and the government.

The new plan would involve a complete revamp of the way Britain makes, uses, and stores electricity in the future. It would make it easier for consumers to generate their own power, using things like solar panels and wind turbines, store it in state-of-the-art batteries, and even sell unused energy back to the National Grid.

SMART ENERGY

Daily tasks like, running laundry, could be timed during the day when the sun is up and solar power available. Fridge freezers could even be temporarily switched off for a few minutes during times of peak energy demand, in the advert break during Coronation Street, for example, when millions of Brits flick on the kettle for a cuppa.

Washing machine

Daylight laundry, a smarter way?

But one of the big challenges to such a future is how and where to store energy generated during peak periods for use later in the day.

No doubts the full might of the global energy technology industry will get behind developments if there’s profit to be earned. Yet solutions may come from surprising places; the AIM market for example.

SOLUTIONS YOU MAY NOT HAVE HEARD OFF

Roman Abramovich-backed AFC Energy (AFC:AIM) is an industrial hydrogen fuel cell power company focused on large-scale stationary fuel cell applications. Tests have been going on with commercial partners in Germany and the company has the potential to supply scalable and on-demand clean energy storage solutions.

Sheffield-based ITM Power (ITM:AIM) has developed and manufactures integrated hydrogen energy systems for energy storage and clean fuel production. Largely aimed at refuelling stations for clean energy vehicles, the applications may also be adapted for energy use in homes.

Perhaps the best-placed of the lot for Ofgem's smarter energy future is RedT Energy (RED:AIM). The £52m business has developed a new and proprietary energy storage technology which enables the efficient and sustainable storage of electrical energy in liquid form.

RedT storage unit

RedT's vanadium redox units

It's taken something like 15 years of heavy research and development but RedT now has viable units based on its patented vanadium redox energy storage technology. Many are already scattered among several customers across the globe in the utilities, renewables and telecoms industries in proof-of-concept trials.

HEAT & POWER BOILERS

More of a wildcard is Ceres Power (CWR:AIM), a developer of solid oxide fuel cells. These are apparently ideal for use in micro combined heat and power (mCHP) applications, such as boilers.

According to analysts, its proprietary technology offers an efficient, low-carbon, and non-intermittent way to generate electricity, while operating within the current natural gas infrastructure.

And finally, there’s Flowgroup (FLOW:AIM), also with its own intellectual property-based mCHP technology. However, it has given up trying to commercialise the technology in the UK because subsidies have dried up, a problem that will no doubt face Ceres also. Flowgroup is now trying to flog this part of its business.

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Issue Date: 24 Jul 2017