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Graeme Cooper Global VP at Jacobs Discusses Energy Storage Solutions

Graeme Cooper Global VP at Jacobs Discusses Energy Storage Solutions

Energy storage solutions play a pivotal role in modernising our energy infrastructure. These systems store excess electricity generated during periods of low demand and release it when demand surges or renewable sources like solar and wind are unavailable. Lithium-ion batteries, pumped hydro storage, and emerging technologies like solid-state batteries and flywheels are some examples. Energy storage enhances grid reliability, mitigates energy intermittency issues, and facilitates the transition to clean, sustainable energy sources, ultimately reducing greenhouse gas emissions and ensuring a more resilient energy ecosystem.

Graeme Cooper Global VP at Jacobs Discusses Energy Storage Solutions


So so even further that further democratization could go as far that if you've got solar and storage and, you know, you fill the battery up, but then they're spare, you might want to sell it very very cheaply to your next door neighbor. They get cheap clean power, short travel energy.

And and theoretically that is the direction travel long term, but it is that democratization is is something that will become, you know, really interesting over time, and still and flexibility become part of that.


Welcome to rethink what matters, the podcast dedicated to aligning the economy and ecology With everyone for improved business performance, stronger families and a greener cooler planet. And today I'm joined by Graeme Cooper, Global VP Jacob responsible for energy transition and cross market solutions and previously head of future markets and national grid responsible for the decarbonization of heat.

You can also find Graeme discussing EVs with Chris Harris on Top Gear, one of the most viewed episodes online.

And today, we're discussing energy storage solutions. Welcome Graeme.


Well, thank you very much for inviting me, Paul.


What a big subject, energy storage solutions.I think we're gonna need a lot of clean power to power, the twenty first and twenty second centuries.

But, so, yes, if you could tell us perhaps a little bit about your role then at Jacobs, perhaps also what you were doing, at National Grid, please.


So, yeah, yeah, let well, we'll start chronologically. Let's start with National Grid. So at national, so let's go back a bit one step further.

So I have always worked in disruptive industries. So I built mobile phone networks before we had mobile phone networks.

So early one G and two G stuff. What are we now? We're talking about five and six G. But if you think about those market disruptions -- Yep.

-- people said we were quite happy with wired phones, why would we need mobile phones? Right? Now everybody's got at least one, if not two, or three. Connected devices.

But then that market matures quickly. So I moved on. So I then went into the wind industry and, again, it was full environmentalist at that time, but we needed to build clean power quickly. So I spent ten or eleven years building half a billion pounds with the wind farms in the UK.

And again, it was new cutting edge hadn't really been done before.

And live through that disruption. But through doing that, you realize that you need to think about the whole system. You can't just plug in renewables and not wonder what where the power goes to.

So I joined National Grid five or six years ago, and Part of my role was doing two things looking upstream. What did we need to do to the grid to connect forty gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030?

But conversely looking downstream, you know, where does that power go? So I led the work on decarbonizing both heat and transport. So if you think about it, transport, We've done that by petrol and diesel, heat, largely eighty six percent of the UK's heated with the gas boiler. So it was, you know, where is that changing? And actually, when you look whole system, the growth in renewables at one end, sort of matches the claim demand at the bottom end. So that's what I was doing at National Grid.

Now I work for Jacobs in a global role. So didn't my role at National Grid was a UK role. The UK is pretty advanced in this space. Not necessarily top of the three, best in some areas, not quite so good in others, but as a country, the UK's got a pretty, good energy system.

But now I work for Jacobs. Jacobs is a global engineering company. It's probably about four or five times bigger than national grid. National Grid's actually one of my clients.

So actually, I'm in the I'm in that space, which is actually helping that global best practice, because the energy transition is happening to every sector, Yep. Yeah. I mean, let's think about cars. Is decarbonizing transport a transport problem?

Actually, it's not. It's an energy and power problem. So I sit in energy and power, and I'm trying to make sure that and the cross market bit of my title is really about joining the dots between -- Right. -- heat, energy, and power, transport, energy and power, and clean technologies.

And what does that mean to the existing energy system? So that's what I do. And we're very active in multiple places. You're talking to me, from I'm in the US right now because one of the dirtiest and high emitters, on the planet, but also, at least some some drive through, Joe Biden's Ira, the inflation reduction act to actually move very, very quickly.

So, yes, an interesting space.


Okay. And did you give us a  bit of a feel then on energy storage solutions today? Where are they? Where have they come from? You know, just what are the challenges?


Yeah. So it's a really interesting one from my perspective. So so we just need to know how we consume energy.

And respond to that to know why is storage important, right? So we energy demand in almost all mature economies they call a duck curve, right? So if you imagine, you, you know, middle of the night demands very low. Most people wake up as the sun comes up and have breakfast, so demand goes up.

Then we all go off to work and school demand dips in the middle of the day, so that's the middle of the ducks back. The peak in the morning is that is the tail of the duck. We all go to work and school in the middle of the day, so demand drops a bit, and then we all come home, five, six o'clock, Cook, heat, shower, clean. Demand goes up. 

That's the head of the duck. And then as we roll in tonight, the demand drops off. So they call it the duck curve.

So how is that energy been met historically? So consumers just consume.

And the power system has to turn up and turn down. To meet that demand. Now in the days we have been in, you just, you know, put more coal in a furnace, heat more water, generate more electricity, or turn up the gas, burn more gas, heat more water, generate more electricity. So the energy system has turned up and turned down to meet demand.

But in the world we're moving into where we can no longer burn things to make power, we have wind, And wind, as we know, runs when the wind blows. And solar, you know, works when the sun shines. So what we have is we have some variability in the way powers being generated.

Yep. Additionally, we can actually do some clever stuff at home around turning stuff on and turning stuff off. So up until now, energy's done to us, right?

We're a we're a passive consumer of energy.

But actually, through things like smart meters and time of use tariffs, we can participate in the energy system now. So for example, my electric car goes through a smart charger and a smart meter, so it only charges when the grid is clean and cheap. Now, actually, that coincides when the energy system demand is low. Right? Yeah. So, to some extent, the way energy demand is met is changing.

But what that now means is what do we do when the wind doesn't blow? What do we do when the sun doesn't shine? What do we do between summer and winter, right, and winter and back to summer? So, you know, the the often the argument And, and it will come from an armchair expert as well. You're building all these wind farms, but the wind doesn't always blow, like it's a surprise to the energy Right?

But at the same time, demand doesn't always happen.

So what we've got is a an a really interesting situation, energy storage, has actually been around for a long time.

In the UK, when we first got nuclear power, you know, late sixties, early seventies.

Nuclear power stations are either on or they're off. You can't really turn them up or turn them down. They call it base load. They're just on. Right? Right.

But obviously through that duck curve, we use more in the day, and we use less overnight. So, you know, I'm I'm of a certain age. I'm 49. I remember people having economy seven late night storage heaters, right?

Yes. And actually, that was storage in the form of heat to dump spare electricity that wasn't being consumed in the middle of the night. Right? So that's that's one way.

We've seen storage historically.

The other one is on a power system point of view, Paul, we've got, Denorwig, if you've ever been on the tourist Trail in Wales, they call it Energy Mountain. 

Right. So the if I, yeah, as I alluded to before, nuclear can't really be turned up and turned down. Yep. And it takes a little bit of time to turn a gas fired power station or coal power station up or down.

So what happens in that short period between turning it up and turning it down and seeing the electricity, you need a fast response. So actually what we have in the UK some in Scotland and in Wales is a big dam at the top, stored kinetic energy in water, and a big, you know, lake at the bottom, Yeah. And basically, when we all turn on the TV to watch he send us at seven o'clock, the system opens a big valve, The water rushes down a pipe, turns a turbine, and deals with that short squirt, that demanding energy. Yeah.

Whilst the rest of the energy system catches up. So we've done storage, both locally at home, like my storage economy seven, and we've also done it at a system level your big grid, but that's being done by big water. And that's so so energy storage really isn't new.

No. But there's more reason to value it.


It's essentially sunny and windy somewhere in the world all of the time.

I guess the question is, what is the longest submarine cable that exists today.


I think one of the longest interconnectors, which is powered on in the next couple of days, actually, or a couple of weeks. Is the National Grids Viking link, which goes between the UK and Denmark.

Hence of the term Viking link. Right? That's a pretty long cable

And that's an HVDC cable, and it allows the UK when it's got too much energy on the system. So the UK's got quite a lot of wind. So when you have lots of renewable energy generating and you have a spare, you can either turn it off. Right.

Or you pay people to use more More you store it, or you send it cheaply down a cable to a market that values it more. So the one thing we need to think of when when we think about our energy system, most people assume that we're an energy island, right? Yep. Yeah.

Well, we're not. We're actually part of a meshed interconnected European grid. Right. So I think live today, and, you know, the day we're, you know, we're recording this at the end of August 2023

I think there are eight, seven or eight interconnectors to other energy markets today.

So moving power around, actually, is actually more helpful than storing, because if you store energy, you lose some power storing, and then you lose some energy converting it back to electrons, right?

Whereas moving it might be more efficient.


So that's an interesting subject, I think, to explore. So -- Yes, I think. -- what what focus and I think this has to be a global focus, doesn't it? Is there on moving energy around so that we need less storage? 


Yeah, you're absolutely right. I mean, I mean, there's a couple of things that we ought to pick up on, right? So, so there are some really interesting public domain projects that you can see. So, there are a number of geothermal projects in Iceland. The one thing they've got is hot rocks, hot water. Right?

But Iceland uses tiny amount of electricity, I mean, you know, difficult Iceland is what is broadly the size of the isle of White in a population the size of Wokingham. Right? So it's not a huge demand, as not a huge amount of industry happens in Iceland. So there is some exploration on using geothermal to make clean power in Iceland. And then run that almost due south to to the UK.

So so moving power where it's abundant and cheap to where it's valued that's happening. The other one is if we think about, let's use Solar as an example. So there's a there's a project that you can find publicly if you Google called Xlinks.

Now this is using, part of the Moroccan Desert. Right? If you've ever been to the Moroccan Desert, I haven't, but, you know, discovery channel gets you everywhere, it's a very, very dry, very, very sunny place, but nothing very much happens there. So, actually, they're Xlinks as a project, is deploying a very, I mean, enormous, set of solar panels in the Moroccan Desert. And then running a cable up the coast of of Europe and plugging into the UK.

Now, you know, so so do you make power stick in a battery and ship the battery? Or do you just run a big wire between the two? Now in certain cases, you'll just run the wire from where the power is abundant to where it's best valued.

But batteries or or or storage also provide, other things than just, you know, when there is an hour.


Until we're fully connected up and everything's wired up, and we've got access twenty four seven, you know, around the world. We're gonna need we're gonna need storage. And I I what your with great interest, top gear episode with Chris Harris.


That was good fun in lockdown or between lockdowns.


And, obviously, you know, as as you admitted on on top gear that you're a bit of a petrol head, I think, which is great. So we can talk about cars as well. I believe that's


Yes. Absolutely.


 a really important form of storage potentially. And a lot and and and, yeah, both ways, bidirectional.

Yeah. But there there's something which seems very unfair to me at the moment. And that is, you know, we're all being encouraged to buy EVs, but there are a lot of people who don't have a driveway, you know.


 who don't have a It's much broader than that. There are people who don't even have a car today or don't even have a driveway or can't even you know, some people are choosing between heating and eating.

Right? So, you know, there's a there there is there is a great great divide between the hams and have nots. You're absolutely right. What I'm yes.


Yeah. Sorry. But what I mean is there's a big difference between owning an EV that's, you know, sat on your drive with a solar panel on your house and you're charging for free, you know, versus you you know, if you don't have a drive, I don't believe, actually, legally, you can park it on the road. Can you and drag a cable across the the pavement?


No. I no. I'd I don't I don't think it's a legal problem. It's more of a risk of somebody tripping over a cable.

So there are other people working on some clever technologies to kind of drop the cable in trough. I mean, if you look at if you look back at Late Victorian in England, we used to have drainage channels cut into the pavement because the drain pipe would come come down the front of the house onto the curb, onto the footpath, so they put these little channels in to bring it to the curb. Well, there's people reinventing those. But but also, I'd I'd like to flag it.

It's not as binary as driveway, no driveway, right? Right. So for for example, my last employer National Grid had a hundred percent EV only company car policy. Right?

Right. But a good portion I mean, if you think of National Grid's main office in the UK, it's in it's in, it's it's, you know, near Birmingham, it's in the Netherlands. So some of the employees live in, leamington spa, which is a spa town, Edwardian, tall houses, big windows, no driveways.

A whole bunch of the employees also lived in places like coventry, Victorian terraces, right? So no driveways.

Yeah. But the one place When you think about EV charging, you want to charge a car where the car is naturally gonna be there for a period of time. Yeah. So what National Grid worked out really early on is actually you spend eight hours a day sat at a desk in your office.

Right. So what they ended up doing is most of the people who, didn't have home charging, would just run the car in, into the car park, find a charger once or twice a week, and just charge the car full whilst they were doing their normal work day.

So that so it's one of those things. If you think about EVs in the direction of travel for that, and you just think you're swapping a liquid fuel for an electron. You kind of miss the point. You know, we shouldn't be going to somewhere to charge.

Right? Yes. You charge whilst the car is stationary. You know, I mean, car cars are I think statistically, cars are sat there doing non car things, right, just sitting there depreciating ninety seven percent of the time.

So you should be charging your vehicle whilst it's stationary. I mean, even if you don't have a car at work, one of the things I did, when I was when I was replacing my charger at home. I used to drive to the station six or seven miles away. And there was a low rate charger on the wall in the station. 

So, actually, the car's gonna be there for nine or ten hours a day because I get on the train going to London.

It sat there on a really low rate charger. It would still be full by the time I got to the end of my day. So it is one of those things. You do it's thinking about it differently, but Coming back to, I guess, the point of the podcast, it's a massive battery, and therefore theoretically, it's a big energy store.


Yes. And there's a lot of them running around.

Yeah. Absolutely. You you add them if you add them all up. Are there any moves to being able to, charge your car by, for example, plugging in a lamppost but actually, you know, that coming off of your home bill.


So So, yeah. So firstly, let's pick the two together. There's one where do you plug in, and then there's the how do you pay for it? So, when we're thinking about lamppost stuff, I mean, there is power to every street lamp in the country.

Right? And it's a relatively small apply. Right? But it is curbside almost everywhere. So it's a very natural place to to charge.

The next thing is how do you meter it and pay for it? Okay.

Lots of people are trying to work this stuff out. Do you pay where the socket is? Do you pay on an app? Does the car work it out? But, basically, today, you are able to, depending on who your energy provider is and what they've signed up to, you can plug into a lamppost and and it can come off your energy bill. So I'll give you a practical example.

I'm an octopus energy customer. And when I'm in the UK, I'm an octopus energy customer.

I have a a card in my wallet, and I can tap that on a charger, and it gets sorted out in the cloud, right? And that is just added to my electricity bill. Mhmm. So that's very that's that, you know, that's that's a very smart way of doing it. There will be more people innovating this space and there are also people, working very cleverly on, things like plug and charge. So actually, by just plugging the car in, the car talks to the charger, the charger talks to the internet, the internet sorts you bill. So there's there's lots of innovation in that space, which will actually make this seamless.


A little bit like you were discussing on the top gear, actually, with Chris Harris. The car must become a little bit like your phone, you know, where it's all basically plug and play and it's all one device and, you know, charging and buying it and running it all becomes pretty much the same thing.


Yeah. So, yeah, I mean, just by by building actually building on that port, it's a really interesting one. 

Right? So so often people assume because I'm in the energy space. That I'm really geeky about energy. I am not.

I don't have the time to be geeky. So, actually, I actually out source, the geekiness to my mobile phone. I'll give you a real world example. So I have, in my driveway, an Indra smart pioneer, charge.

There are other charges that do smart as well. Right? So this is not about a brand there, but that's what I have in my driveway.

And actually, by the nature of what it does, it looks to a little secret code in the internet, an API signal, which is how dirty is the energy system right now, and how dirty is it looking forward. And it also looks to my energy provider, which in this case is octopus, but other people do smart tariffs for a price signal, when is it more expensive and when is it cheaper.

So all I say to my app is I want the car to be full by seven in the morning because that's when I leave for work. Right. But I only want you to fill it with the cheapest and cleanest energy.

And the app works it out. Right? So I'm not I'm not going out saying, oh, it's three minutes to midnight. Power must be cheap now and charging.

No. No. No. I've outsourced the geekiness. So when we think about the energy transition we're on, this is not about saying to people, you have to learn how this stuff works.

Right. This is just about finding an ease of use in to do it. In the same way, energy storage is likely to go down the same route. You know, you're not gonna say jump leads from a solar panel to a battery.

And when the batteries full, I unplug the jump leads and take to the car and put the jump leads on the car. And, right, this this I mean, there's there's a lot of smart tech that is enabled by the digital devices around us. To allow us to be prosumers to democratize energy to allow this to happen, in in in sort of real time, but without a having to take time to do it. These are the two things then.

It really isn't. It's a democratization of energy. So being able to choose your energy supplier and how clean and green your energy is and the and the and the smart switching. So everything, you know, switching in and out as as, as demand and supply dictates Absolutely.

Well, actually, actually, pull it probably builds even on from that. So theoretically, just hypothesize, you know, three or four years' time. Yeah. So so firstly, For your entire life, you've had energy done to you.

Right? You just read your meter, you submit your numbers, you get a bill. You don't really see where you use it, waste it. Right?

So smart meters allow you to see what you're using and when, and your retailer can do that. So the first step is it allows you to have a time of use tariff.

So, you know, a bit like economy seven back in the day, but it's a bit more dynamic than that now. Right? So on a on a really windy day, signals that the price is cheap and you'll, you know, charge the car full. You'll run your tumble dryer, all those sort of bits and pieces, or put it in the battery.

And then if it's a low wind day or a high demand time where there's more scarcity and the price goes up or the grid is dirtier, You might not top the car up today because it'll tell you that there's enough for you to do tomorrow. Right? Or you might choose to put the laundry on tomorrow, not today. Right? 

Yeah. But then the other piece here is, up until now, till recently, you've not been able to, you know, you're not a power station. But if you have a roof or a garden, you can generate your own power through solar. So this is even beyond.

So you've got some customer choice about what you use and when. You've got some customer choice around who you buy from and where do they source that power? Yes. But you can be a participant yourself because you can generate the power.

Right? But theoretically within the next couple of years, if you have a roof full of solar, but you're not using any because you've gone out to the office or gone for two weeks holiday, Yeah. Why shouldn't you be able to sell that very cheaply to your next door neighbor who doesn't?

Now, actually, the tech theoretically is there already. You know, that sort of almost like the, you know, in in the same way that you you can do a cryptocurrency.

Yes. Yeah. You you could you can, you know, it's it's just ones and zeros.

Yes. Energy's the same. So so even further, that further democratization could go as far that if you've got solar and storage, and, you know, you fill the battery up, but then they're spare, you might want to set it very, very cheaply to your next door neighbor. They get cheap clean power, short travel energy, and, and theoretically, that is the direction of travel long term, but it is that democratization is is something that will become you know, really interesting over time and storage and flexibility become part of that. I think the whole this whole transition to our new twenty first twenty second century is really driven by, customer choice driving the supply chain. You know, the But I also think well, I think there's a supply chain Excuse me. Paul, I think there's a couple of things here that the drivers are actually numerous.

So there's the ability that we want more things Right? We want more electrical things. We wanna stop burning stuff as consumers, right? And we're being driven from that.

But also if we think about it, this is a sort of country level grid level, you know, either up until, you know, twenty eighteen, the dirtiest thing we did was make power.

Right. Yeah. Cold gas fired power stations, principally.

After twenty eighteen because of the growth in wind farms and closure of smaller early coal plants, right? You know, the the the the the the grid is now the second dirtiest thing we do as a country, right, the energy system. Yeah. Transport it.

It's not because transport has got dirtier. It's just that the energy systems getting cleaner quicker. Right? Yeah.


So if we think about it, decarbonizing heat and decarbonizing transport are going to be really important, right, because it's the, you know, the dirtiest thing we do is move. The second dirtiest thing we do is heat. Right? Yeah. 

Yeah. And so that means that probably by about twenty forty, twenty forty five, Yeah. Decarbonizing heat and transport will mean the UK will consume at least twice the amount of electricity than we do today. Right.

Yep. To be able to do that, we need four times the amount of clean generation than we have today. Yes. Because the wind doesn't always blow, sun doesn't always shine.

Right? Yep. Yep. And then be able to move that around, we will need twice the grid capacity than we have today.

Now that's not necessarily twice as many wires. We just might have to have some thicker wires. Right? Right.

Okay. That two times, four times two times. So twice the demand -- Yeah. -- four times the amount of clean generation, meaning twice the grid.

Is actually predicated on smart forecasting of when renewables are gonna be there. Okay. Smart optimization of the grid cause we build grids to peak demand plus a bit of spare, but actually we could use it more by being smart.

And smart consumption. So you know my smart charger avoiding peak demand and peak cost. Yes. So smart plays a role. And then that's really where energy storage becomes a really interesting facilitator because you can store energy.

At the solar plant or at the at the wind farm. Right?

Or you can store it at big batteries on the grid.

Or pump storage or compressed air storage in a variety of ways of storing energy, or you could store it in the home. Now at the moment, Anybody with a water tank at home is already storing energy. Right? You fill a water tank full of hot water?

That's an energy store. It's just energy stored in the form of water. So You know, storage everywhere, flexibility everywhere is gonna be critical to ensuring that we get to at least cost. And in the smartest way, the energy transition that we're on.


And the grid does come up a lot, doesn't it? You know, getting all this renewable energy connected up to the grid. I did a podcast previously. It was said that there is way there's there's plenty of renewable energy out there coming in, but it's just not connected to the grid.

And if you put up a a new wind farm today, it's not gonna get connected until nine, you know, 2038 or something.


So what's the So let's just okay. As it yeah. So look, as an ex wind farmer, let me let me bring a few things into into some some sharp focus.

So firstly, when I was developing wind farms, it would take on average about seven to eight years to develop. 

Right, consent, design, build, and switch on a wind farm. So when you say, well, it's gonna take ten years for the grid to get there, well, hang on. It's gonna take you eight years to build the onshore wind farm. So as long as you started about the same time, potentially there's a two year gap. Right. Okay.


Great. We're not actually there isn't actually at the moment. There's not a load of wind farms out there turning generating energy that's not going anywhere.


Correct. There are there is a couple of scenarios and that but and I'll come to that in a second. If you look at the development of an offshore wind farm, so my last role was to to look at building the grid for offshore.

Yeah. You know, we're going from ten ten or eleven gigawatts of offshore wind today -- Yeah. -- to somewhere close to fifty gigawatts by twenty thirty. That's the ambition.

But an offshore wind farm, ten, eleven, twelve years to develop and build an offshore wind farm. Yeah. But it takes ten years to develop a power line.

Right. So when people say, well, there's a massive grid queue and you apply for a grid connection today, your grid offer will be ten or twelve years out. Well, yeah, but your generating station, it doesn't arrive magically overnight. Right?


The the the speed of building the grid is speeding up and will need to speed up. The the the the speed of deployment of renewables will speed up. But this is sort of known and understood, but I want to come back to the there are periods where there's so much wind on the system or so much renewables on the system -- Yeah. -- that wind is asked to stop.

You turn off turbines. Right? Okay. But that's because you need to understand that the market so the the the way this works is actually let's go back to some basics.

The energy grid -- Yep. -- is paid for by us. You, me, anybody with an energy bill is paying for the grid. You know, when you look at your energy bill, there's the, you know, twelve thirty p a kilowatt hour.

That's the the volume of energy cost. And then you have your daily standing charge. Now your daily standing charge is covering green levies. It's covering policy instruments.

It's covering feeding tariffs for solar panels, but it is also paying for the local wires, your distribution company, and it's also paying for the transmission wires. The, you know, the the UK's transmission system. Right? So we are all as bill payers paying for the wires.

Now, do you build about all the wires you need for the most extreme day where the wind's going like the clappers, Everybody's got everything switched on. Those days do not exist, but you'd be effectively overbuilding, right, and incurring cost.

For the one hour where you had that extreme scenario. 

Right. In the same way, what you wanna be able to do is do you spend a billion pounds on building a power line so that wind can just run, or do you not spend a billion pounds, and on a few days when it's too windy, you pay them to stop. You know, that cost ultimately falls down to us. So when you see the red top, you know, the sort of the daily mail, sun example, which is, you know, The energy industry is paid when to stop. Yes, but it's also paid.

Gas fired power station to start and stop. That means that the way the energy market works. Right? Right.

It's like the it's like the eBay of Energy. Right? Well, it just talked to my storage, isn't it? It just talked to it.

It is. And and and this is really why in the world we're moving into, If you've got a win lots of wind running in Scotland and lots of demand in in, the UK, do you just build all the wires you need to get all of that power at peak demand from one to the other, or do you build optimize so the world we're moving into is actually you don't build capacity for that extreme plus a little bit of headroom, you build to an optimized world. So what you say is will build it to when the most power usually runs, that's of eighty percent of the time.

And actually when there's a bit too much, we'll divert it into making hydrogen and restore the hydrogen, or we'll divert it into a battery, or we'll use it to pump water uphill that we can let the water out at a later stage. Right? It's just it's about smart smarter management of the energy system. It is.

So so, you know, people need to remember that the when people say the the grid can't cope or the grid's got a queue, there's two things there. There's the energy component. Right? Yeah.

The actual electrons running through it. And then there's the wires component, the, oh, the ability for it to flow. Another topic which is being talked about more and more is hydrogen, green hydrogen.

And I think that is a that is such an interesting topic because, you know, essentially all you need is air sun and water. I mean, we should all be stopping everything and just focusing on hydrogen. No brainer.

And it's, you know, why is why are we not doing that? Oh, so well, this is this is one of those hydrogen is the most abundant, the boats abundant thing in the universe, so of course it must be cheap and free and easy. Now the cold reality is not. Right?

Look. So let's ninety seven percent of the industrial hydrogen used today is as a byproduct of making oil and gas. Right? It's called steam reformation.

You basically blast the your blast oil with superheated steam, it separates out you get hydrogen.

So firstly, at the moment, when people say, well, I'm, I'm not gonna get an electric car. I'm just waiting for hydrogen or I'm not gonna do this. I'm yeah. Hydrogen is the magic, but it's not.

Hydrogen is not energy in and of itself. You have to make it so that you can use it, and then right. So it's it's actually an energy vector. It's it's a it's an energy storage medium in and of itself.

Right? In gas or liquid form. So the first thing to remember is hydrogen at the moment is not clean because it's made they call that gray hydrogen. It's made from boiling gas. 

In the world we're moving into, I mean, I think I remember back to my GCSE physics, you know, where you had water and you put elect tried in and twelve volts and you captured the gas, that's hydrogen. Right? And then you light a match and it goes pop. Right?

Yeah. So, you know, you can make it Right? And so, yes, you know, the ambition is to make more hydrogen through green energy, right, to make, make hydrogen. But the also the thing is we need to understand is hydrogen in and of itself just because it's green isn't the only important feature.

I'll give you a real world example in cars because it's a really useful one. Because you have to make hydrogen, And in and of itself, in the conversion to make it, and the conversion back to electricity through a fuel cell, you lose efficiency.

So if you did one mile in a battery car and you had to generate the power, let's say one unit of energy to do one mile, Yep. You would need four and a bit units of an energy to make hydrogen to put it into the hydrogen fuel cell car to drive the same car, the same mile. Yeah. So theoretically, you would say you'd have to make four times the amount of clean energy.

Yeah. If we just went for hydrogen cars now, please don't take my comment to be anti hydrogen. Right? Okay.

Broadly, the direction of travel is if you can electrify it, electrify it. Yes. And where you can't, you use hydrogen, and you make sure that hydrogen is clean. Yeah.

And so you know, you'd I guess if I call these things, it's the right fuel, right application, at the right time is important.

But green hydrogen could be actually part of the balancing system. Right? Because, you know, I've I've seen power plants get in development now. And if you read their planning permissions, you can see that they've hived off a little area in their plan for potential and electrolyzer in storage.

Right. And that's because You know, you know, we talked earlier on about nuclear being either on or off. It's not very flexible, but what if, power demand was dropping? And you don't wanna switch a nuclear power station off, you wanna be able to turn it down.

Well, you can't turn it down really. So why don't you just divert the power into an electrolyzer making to hydrogen and store it. Right? Yeah.

Yeah. There are people exploring it as a change of phase, right, change of energy vector or storing it today and then converting it back tomorrow. Right? All of these things are possible, and this is driving lots of innovation.

But what we mustn't be is that polarization. It's not electricity or hydrogen, it's the it is truly the right application of the right fuel at the right time. I think it's yeah. And I think that's it is gonna all work itself out, isn't it?


Yeah, I mean, I think if you've got a wind turbine generating electricity, you may as well put that electricity directly into the battery. Rather than, you know, converting it to hydrogen store and then convert it back into electricity and stick Exactly. Exactly. Exactly.


I'm an interesting run around fuel cells. Right? So I had, a Toyota Marai fuel cell car. When I worked at National Grid, I had access to one.

I used one. Yeah. What's really interesting in that space is the first vehicle that I've had that had a used by date. So if ever you get the chance to see a hydrogen fuel cell car, Just ask them to open the fuel filler flap.

There's a date. And actually, the date is driven because you're pumping up a a steel lozenge right, a gas tank under the car. You're filling it up, pressurizing it, and then you're letting it out as it goes through the fuel cell. You're pressurizing it and so it fatigues over time.

And it becomes uninsurable. So it's one of those things that I've never had a car with a use by date.

That was a a useful one for me, but it has been in the same way. Don't I mean, you know, the the nothing is guilt free. There are clever Boffins working on alternative, your metals and, you know, the the chemistries.

Yeah. There is a role for fuel cells, but it's only when electrification doesn't get you there. Right? Right.

I mean, I I I'll I'll cut you know, at the start of this interview, I said, you know, I I built mobile phone networks back in the old days, right, before we had SMS and picture phones, Right. I built on a hillside, a remote mobile phone mast that was powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. And that must have been twenty five years ago in my past. Right?

So Right. So, you know, that was the right application because you're not gonna run a cable miles and miles and miles and miles and miles just to run a mobile phone mast. Right? So there is, you know, you the the I come back to my comment, which was In all of these things, you need to look at the right fuel -- Yeah.

-- for the right application of that fuel at the right time. In the same ways, like today, You can buy an electric car. You can run electric car today. Yes.

You can just about buy an electric truck, but they're a little bit behind. That doesn't mean they won't go there. But it's just, you know, it'll be a few more years before before, you know, that becomes the default, solution.

I mean, twenty percent of new car sales in the UK right now are electric cars.

Right. This is happening quite quickly, but in the same way the move away from boilers to heat pumps, the move from diesel trucks to compress natural gas and then onto battery or hydrogen. You know, these these things are all coming in time. Yes. Absolutely.


Do you think that legislation is driving that mainly, or do you think the market is is driving itself?


It wants to help clean up the world. Oh, so it's a really interesting one. So I spent a lot time working with government legislators, policy makers, and regulators. Right? It's what I do a lot of in in my time. 

And the argument that there's a number of arguments, which is, you know, government just should tell everybody what they're gonna get, right, and make it. So They don't. But in the same time, you can't just say, well, market will fix everything because it needs a direction of travel.

So actually what you end up getting is what industry needs, what business needs is just certainty.

So this is why what you start to see in the policy land escape is the UK government has not said everybody has to have an EV. What they said is you can't buy a brand new petrol or diesel car from two thousand thirty.

Mhmm. Now the car industry says right now I've got certainty that I can't sell in the UK and Lots of the European market, a petrol diesel car from twenty thirty or twenty thirty five depending on where you are, or even twenty twenty five if you're in Norway. Right? What you have is policy certainty.

Right. And then you allow the market to deliver. So so when you your comment as well, is this a, you know, is this a failure of legislators solution or a failure of policy or is it a failure of regulation? It's not a failure of any of those things. What you kind of need to get to a point is derisk or you create certainty.

Right? It's not about picking a winning technology because if you try and pick a winning technology, you start for innovation.

Yep. But at the same time, you do need to have a direction of travel that says, well, you can't do the thing we're trying to stop you to do. Right? Right.

So so, you know, in in real world terms, you know, no one's gonna come and knock on your door, Paul. In, you know, December the twenty ninth, twenty twenty nine. It's excuse me, sir. You still own a petrol diesel car.

Give me the keys. No. You'll just use the car till it dies of old age and high mileage. Right?

Yep. But If you buy new cars, you just won't be able to buy a petrol or diesel one after twenty thirty. So this is a change in direction. And I want to make one comment, which is we've seen this before, but maybe you don't know it.

I'll use the example. So You know, it's running into the it's running into the evening where you are. It's lunchtime where I am, but it's running into the evening where you are on you. I can see that you have a light on.

Right. Yep. So about I think it was about twelve or thirteen years ago.

Europe legislated to ban the sale of the incandescent bulb. You know, the filament light bulb? Yes. Yes.

And everybody was up in arms. You can't tell me I can't I'm gonna have to sit in the dark. Right. Right.

So they said is no, you'll just not be able to make and sell them after a date. Right? Right. Yes.

So we all look back and think, well, look, there's really early complex fluorescent bulbs were a bit expensive, and you switched them on. They took a bit of time to warm up. Right? Those were early adopters, really early adopters.

But if we think about it now, nearly every bulb I suspect in your house is an LED. Right? Right. Yes. 

So are you in a bad place because of that change?

No. You still have light. Do you go into being cure wherever you buy your light bulb and say hello, can I have a really climate friendly, eco efficient, you know, light bulb? No.

They say, do you want a bayonet fitting or a screw fitting? Cause you value light. You don't care actually how it the form it gets to you in. Right?

Yes. Yes. But interestingly, would you have picked LEDs without the signal to not buy incandescent bulbs? Well, no.

You would So some of the legislation is here to save ourselves from what we don't know. But interestingly, Paul, when you look at energy demand, the switch to to lower energy efficient light bulbs has saved nearly ten percent of demand, that peak demand every night of the week. Right? Right.

Yeah. So, actually, all of us listening to this podcast, if we've got LED bulbs, we've done our first little step towards climate, you know, arresting climate change and being eco, and we probably don't even realize it. Right. That's a great point.

But we're we're not sat in the dark, are we? Yeah. We're you're so this change can happen. But it shows that what you need is either a nudge.

You need a carrot or stick. Yes. And industry needs certainty. So the bulbs have got better because of certainty.

Yeah. They've got cheaper because of volume.

Now the cleaner greener stuff is the default. So, you know, on this journey to net zero and climate, you know, and and and responding to climate, change.

Doesn't mean that we're gonna be sitting in caves in loincloths in the dark, you know, sucking on grass. Right?

You know, it it this is this is a transition of which you can fit, yeah, and many of the things we can fix now. So it's, like, it's, like, the answer gonna be that we all just generate our own local electricity and share it amongst our neighbors. Is that really the way it's this is gonna work? So I'm gonna say yes, but no. Okay. Quite a politician's answer, but let me let me just justify that.

Distributed energy, which is what, you know, locally, you know, solar on your roof or small solar in the local village supply. Right? That's really important. We will need to do that.

But at the same time, you know earlier in the conversation. I said to you, the UK is gonna double the amount of consumption. Need four times the amount of clean generation twice the grid.

Okay. We will consume more power and we don't have enough roofs and garden space to do that. So, actually, it's and we will need to do big offshore wind and more of it. Because the windiest place in Europe is the UK, and the windiest place in the UK is the sea. Right?

In the same way, you know, you solar on on roofs. You can put it in fields. 

You know, you'll do big commercial stuff because we need to use more. But we will do less of that Right? Because we can generate some ourselves. So it's so a lot of people, in the distributed energy space will kinda go, well, you do solely.

Don't need the grid. Well, actually, if you ask them, you do need the grid because the inverter doesn't work unless you're plugged into the grid, right, in most cases. Right? So It's it's not either or, it's hand.

Right? So locally generated short travel energy and protect potentially in the future the ability to sell your spare to your next door neighbor cheaply. That's coming, but it doesn't mean that you won't do big offshore big interconnectors.

You know, big wind farms on shore, big solar. Those things will still need. So it's an definitely an and. It's not an either or.


Okay. And we have discussed batteries and we have discussed green hydrogen as the two, I suppose, primary energy storage solutions, but just out of interest. Is there anything else on the horizon that, you know, we ought to Well, there's lots. Yeah.


There's lots. So, we see gravity found we see gravity, energy. So, you know, disuse mine shafts with a big weight where the lift used to be rounded a fly wheel. Right?

So gravity kinetic energy.


Sorry, Graeme. There is that is that fact is that being factored into the solutions for the twenty first century in the twenty second as as viable storage solutions?


When you or when you say viable, there are people commercially developing these technologies and the market is able to understand that it's could come and might be part of you know, this is a mosaic. There's no magic bullet net zero. Either in storage or power generation or consumption or travel or heat. Right? You need a mosaic of everything. So so, you know, when we think about the the varieties of storage, you can have storage in the form of chemical, storage in the form of heat in water, You can see molten salt storage, compressed air storage, liquid air storage.

I mean, you know, The storage can happen in a variety of ways. I mean, even at home -- Yeah. -- so in my home in the UK, I I energy store. I have green sauce heat pumps that heat my home.

Yep. And the biggest demand in my home is heating hot water for heating and, and, you know, for the hot tap. Yep. So I just installed a large water tank.

Yes. The same as a three drawer filing cabinet. That's three hundred liters worth of storage, but it means my heat pumps only run off peak. 

So, actually, when we think about storage, most people immediately think of a battery. Yes. But, actually, Those of us who have a water tank at home are already storing energy. In the water tank, we're just storing it in the form that we're gonna use it, which is heat.

So I think it's one of those things that any any ability to store energy comes back to that right application right time. Right. Yeah. Yeah.

Yeah. So so and and and that comes in a variety of forms. I mean, even things like tidal barrage is right. The moon you know, sun goes around the sun, sun goes, the earth goes around the sun, the moon goes around the earth.

We have tides. Yeah. So, yeah, one of the one of the easiest ways is is that when the tide comes in, you hold it. You let the tide go out and you let the water out through a turbine.

Right? So tidal barrages, you know, you would never Put all of your money on one technology. The answer is if there's an opportunity to store energy.

Does it work? Does it work economically? Is it compatible with the need for storage and does it work right now? Or will it work in the future? And if it does, you know, we will have storage or flexibility in many forms in many, many places.


Thanks very much, Graeme, for your time on this podcast. And helping us to, you know, understand, energy storage solutions today and, you know, what our energy storage solutions are gonna be tomorrow and and the the challenges in delivering those energy storage solutions.

And, yeah, helping us all have much better understanding of yeah, of of how we are going to be using energy in the future as well. So thanks very much, Graham.


Paul, thank you very much. Look, it's a massive subject you know, people don't often know or care what happens behind the light switch, but there's a lot of really clever people, a lot of really clever, folks working on the solutions, which will ensure that the grid gets cleaner and greener.

The air gets cleaner, that we handle a fighting chance of, saving the planet, but we will do it in a way that doesn't mean we have to fundamentally change our lifestyles.

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