My Lords, the Government and Ofgem published a smart systems and flexibility plan in July 2017, which outlines a series of actions to support the transition to a smart energy system. They include an assessment of changes in our energy system and measures to address the barriers to storage, whether in the form of home batteries or the range of grid storage technologies.
I thank the Minister for his reply. I am sure that the Government have thought this through—or not—but as nuclear subsidies increase and the cost of national grid electricity rises, more people will move to solar and domestic storage of energy. That means that people still using the national grid will be the poorest in society because they cannot afford all these extra measures. Have the Government thought through how the poor will be relieved of paying for very expensive electricity?
Obviously there will be changes as more people make use of storage. That will have an effect on the grid because if some people increase their use of storage, they may even be able to go off-grid in future. The noble Baroness is right to draw the House’s attention to that issue. That is a matter for Ofgem; it can certainly look at that to make sure that it can create a level playing field for all consumers.
My Lords, I declare my interests in energy, as in the register. Is my noble friend aware—I am sure that he is—that offshore wind producers are now saying that they can produce electricity at £62.50 per megawatt hour? Of course, commercial storage will make it considerably lower, if we go for it. Does that not cast a shadow over the costs of the contract at Hinkley Point C, which are for £92.50 for the next 35 years, indexed? Is it not time to question some of these lavish expenditures, which are having very little effect on carbon reduction and greatly increasing the charges to poor consumers?
My Lords, at this stage, I do not want to get into the wider question of Hinkley C costs. I think it would be rather dangerous for me to go down that route. My noble friend is right to say that increased use of home battery storage, possible greater use of batteries in cars as a means of storage in years to come and greater use of other forms of storage, which the noble Baroness and my noble friend referred to—he is probably aware that we already have about 5 gigawatts of storage in the system, which is mainly pumped hydroelectricity—have implications for costs throughout the grid, which will need to be addressed.
My Lords, so far, we have seen the cost of lithium-ion batteries drop by some 50% over the last five years, since 2012. That implies that resources of lithium are more or less okay and that market forces are driving costs down. I do not have the figures on long-term estimates of quantities of lithium, but that will be taken into account by the market in due course.
My Lords, with respect to the previous question, would it not be a good idea for the Government to follow that issue rather carefully, so that the consumer can have a realistic price? Solar cells and storage batteries are expensive, and people selling them do not always give straightforward information. It would be a good idea, would it not, for the Government to look at this in some detail, so that consumers can be given reliable advice on the cost of such storage?
My Lords, as I said in my answer to the previous question, the cost of lithium-ion batteries has come down considerably—by 50%. Batteries are still expensive but it is in the interests of some consumers to buy them to even out their use of electricity and make savings. Obviously, any advice that they can get, which was partly behind the Government and Ofgem’s smart systems flexibility plan, would be of use to those consumers.
My Lords, the more smart meters are installed in our homes, the more potential there will be for battery storage. Will the Minister assure us that the promise the Government made of 26,000 smart meters in our homes before 2020 will really happen?