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Energy Storage Projects: Remember to consider Environmental and Health and Safety Issues

  • United Kingdom
  • Environment
  • Health and safety
  • Energy and infrastructure

25-04-2017

Across Europe, energy storage is fast becoming  an important part of the energy strategy, providing energy security and an opportunity to support the greater use of renewable energy generation on the electricity system.

At a European level, energy storage is being considered by the European Commission through its Horizon 2020 research initiative. In February 2017, the European Commission published a document titled “Energy Storage – the role of electricity” which discusses further possible approaches to the development of European policy.

In the UK, there have been a number of important recent developments including the November 2016 joint Ofgem/BEIS “Call for Evidence” on a Smart, Flexible Energy System” that is seeking industry views on some of the regulatory obstacles to the development of energy storage projects such as the classification of energy storage as generation or end user consumption. In addition, for the first time battery storage projects have been awarded contracts under National Grid’s Enhanced Frequency Response service and the Capacity Market T-4 2020/21 auction.

The above developments have led to a large number of battery storage projects entering the planning and development phases and therefore it is crucial that all environmental and health and safety issues should be considered at the earliest possible opportunity. This article summarises some of these key issues that battery storage developers should consider.

Producer Responsibility

The Waste Batteries and Accumulators Regulations 2009 (“Batteries Regulations”) implement the EU Batteries Directive and set out producer responsibility obligations for “producers” of batteries. Included within the scope of the Batteries Regulations are “industrial batteries” which is likely to cover those batteries used in energy storage projects.

Producers of industrial batteries have registration, reporting and take-back obligations in relation to the batteries that they place on the market. A breach of the requirements of the Batteries Regulations is a criminal offence and therefore it is important for those involved in battery storage projects to understand where any producer responsibility obligations will sit. In addition the obligation to take back and recycle batteries has financial implications for producers which will need to be borne in mind.

“Producer” is broadly defined to mean anyone that places industrial batteries on the UK market. This could be industrial batteries in their own right or those that are incorporated into products/storage units. The definition of “producer” is such that it captures not just manufacturers of the batteries but also importers. In the context of a battery storage project, a producer could therefore be:

  • the person who imports the industrial batteries, or a unit containing industrial batteries, into the UK and sells them to end users or to distributors; or
  • a UK based manufacturer of industrial batteries, or a unit containing industrial batteries, for use in battery storage projects which sells to end users or distributors.

As a producer of industrial batteries, the Batteries Regulations impose a take-back obligation if:

  • the producer has supplied an end user with new industrial batteries during a compliance period;
  • if the producer has not supplied an end user, but the end user is unable to return the batteries to the original supplier and the batteries are of the same chemistry as those that the producer supplies; or
  • the end user is unable for any reason to return the industrial battery to another producer.

Nothing in the Batteries Regulations prevents a producer from entering into alternative arrangements for financing the costs of the collection, treatment and recycling of waste industrial batteries.

Wider considerations

Each project will need to be assessed on a case by case basis, but the following wider environmental areas should be borne in mind by those involved in battery storage projects:

  • Environmental Permitting – does the storage facility carry out any activities requiring an environmental permit? If there is to be any emission to the environment (air, water or land) a permit may be required.
  • Waste Law Obligations - given the composition of batteries, many are classed as hazardous waste. At the end of the battery’s life, the removal from the site will need to be in accordance with waste law requirements. The generator of waste has a “duty of care” to ensure that the battery is disposed of correctly, which includes ensuring that it is transported by an appropriately licensed contractor and that it is accompanied by the correct waste transfer documentation.
  • Transport requirements - depending on the type of battery, there may be packaging and labelling requirements for the transport of the battery under The Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations 2009. These regulations implement the ADR, an international agreement setting out packaging and labelling requirements for the transport of dangerous goods by road.
  • Climate Change Levy (CCL) – does the operation of the storage facility trigger this carbon tax? CCL is a tax on energy delivered to non-domestic users in the UK. Storage devices could be considered by energy suppliers to be eligible to pay the tax because they import a large amount of energy. Suppliers add the CCL to industrial and commercial consumers’ bills  as they import energy. The treatment of CCL and energy storage is an area that is being consulted upon in the Ofgem/BEIS Call for Evidence.
  • COMAH -  will the storage facility have any dangerous substances present at such levels that would bring it within scope of COMAH? For example, through any chemical reaction as the battery discharges?
  • Health and Safety –  The Health and Safety Executive is currently developing guidance on energy storage projects as part of a research programme. The aim is to ensure that the regulatory framework is suitable and that it does not act as barrier to the commercial deployment of UK energy storage projects.

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