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Why second life will pave the way to the clean energy transition


To mark Energy Day at COP27 and generate a legacy from this year’s discussions, Matthew Lumsden calls on consumers and businesses to understand that switching to electric vehicles is just the first step in the energy transition.

“To drive energy change faster, we need to look further ahead to the reuse of electric vehicle batteries at the end of their lives in a vehicle and ensure that we maximise the finite resources within them.

Battery storage holds the key to cleaner energy world, by storing power from renewables, but at present there is little recognition of the role that the reuse of batteries must play. We need to focus on the second life use of batteries in energy storage to deliver the energy security, carbon savings and resource stewardship we need.

It is well known that when driving you need to look further ahead to stay safe. Not only are we not looking far enough ahead, but we’ve also got a blind spot concerning battery reuse.

Second life should come first, when it comes to energy storage. It is the reuse of existing EV batteries that makes best use of technology and resources and will enable us to deliver the greatest carbon savings and transformation to our energy systems. Industry projections suggest that by 2030, around one million tonnes of EV batteries could be available for reuse. This second life application is the one we need to celebrate at COP27 and share best practice about today.

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Technology allows us to combine battery behaviour with financial modelling so that second life energy storage systems can be bought through regular monthly payments, with a service contact that includes swapping out the batteries as needed. A second life energy system can deliver the same duty cycles and energy services as a system using new batteries, but dramatically extends the life of vehicle batteries.

This ‘battery storage as a service model’ is the exactly the combination of financial and technological innovation that Energy Day at COP27 is calling for, and the case should be made more clearly that good solutions are available now.

Connected Energy has the most commercial second life battery energy storage systems installed in Europe. Our systems are compliant with grid requirements across Europe, peak shaving frequency response and micro grid applications. They will help drive clean energy and add greater value to the switch to electric vehicles. There are good solutions on the road ahead, now is a good time to recognise and celebrate them.”

A battery is often considered at the end of its useful life in a vehicle when it falls to 75-80% of its original capacity, but this still leaves a sub­stantial amount remaining. This can be used within stationary storage systems, with two to three sets of batteries needed to maintain capacity over roughly a 20-year time frame. It would be an unacceptable waste of resources to discard the value in a battery prematurely.

Cranfield University recently signed a contract for three BESS units and it is a textbook example of best practice. The BESS will allow the site to balance its energy behind the meter, with the systems being used to store excess solar generation when energy demand is low and deliver it back as load increases. The systems are also being used to reduce fixed charges and infrastructure costs by shaving peak loads to keep them within site constraints.

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