By BEN COOK
- Amp to build ‘Europe’s two biggest battery storage facilities’ in the UK
- Amp X platform gives ‘massive advantage’ over most developers
- Australia is another ‘big focus’ for the company, says Rogers
Amp Energy is aiming to take the UK energy storage market by storm.
And the company – which develops solar, wind, hybrid, standalone battery storage and green hydrogen projects – has already made its mark.
In January this year, Toronto-headquartered Amp announced what it described as “Europe’s two biggest battery storage facilities”, namely an 800MW battery portfolio in Scotland.
The man leading the charge is Amp Energy CEO Dave Rogers.
Energy Storage Report spoke to Rogers to find out why the company was attracted to the UK market, as well as discover more about the rationale behind the creation of Amp X, which the company has described as a “disruptive grid edge digital energy platform”.
Rogers also explained why Amp is targeting the Australian market, how regulatory risks could jeopardise the growth of storage and why some poor-quality storage projects could be about to fail.
What have been the most significant recent developments at the company from an energy storage perspective?
Dave Rogers: We decided to create a division called Amp X. As more renewables were coming online, you had grid destabilisation happening all over the world, and it’s continuing to happen. It’s getting worse as we all know, so our belief was that, as we go and add storage, which is going to be critical, we need to be able to have the control system, the dispatch algorithms internally. We don’t want to hire that out. So we brought in a team – there’s about 80 people in the Amp X division today. A big piece of that is a data science team and a software team in Prague, and then some hardware engineers and, and corporate functions up in Edinburgh.
That allows us to go and optimise all of our flexible assets globally with autonomously controlled proprietary AI and machinery. And this is a team that has deep energy experience and also expertise in data science – they used to dispatch things like natural gas assets. That’s a huge piece of us getting ready for this next phase of decarbonisation, which had to include storage because grids couldn’t take any more pure generation of renewables.
That allowed us to then go and develop our own storage assets. We actually have assets that are operating in the US – our dispatch algorithms from Amp X have been deemed bankable by DMV so we’ve passed the tests for financing, which is a critical piece. The next big step, on the storage side in particular, was us saying, ‘okay, now let’s go and scale this’. We decided the UK was a big market for reasons that made sense around utility scale battery storage. We made a big push into the UK and obviously we’ve got a massive portfolio now and that’s going to continue growing.
What has Amp X enabled you to do that you couldn’t do before?
DR: We now have a data science team and all these analytics and an understanding of the optimisation of assets. It’s allowed us to go at the front end now and do development in a different way. Where are the massive constraints in the grid? Where are you going to get paid for flexibility? What’s the long-term trend within those constraint areas in the grid? And then develop assets in and around that business model, as opposed to the traditional model of developers, which was, where’s some grid connection points? It’s different now. Without having that control system and data science team internally, we would be at a disadvantage.
We have a massive advantage over most developers who are still thinking ‘I need to go and get grid connection’. That’s the only thing that matters. Well, no. Flexible assets – it’s a different model. The other benefit is you’ve got data science, you’ve got digitalisation – those are the two things driving the entire energy transition. That sits now at Amp and with as smart a team as it gets in energy around both of those key fundamental points.
You also need to think about fundamentally changing the grid infrastructure. So the team has been working over the last three or four years on something called a smart transformer, which is a drop-in replacement for a distribution level substation. It delivers a grid infrastructure to allow for the further massive penetration of EVs, because it allows distribution network operators to modulate power factor and also dynamically modulate voltage, which is another massive issue.
What would you pick out as the biggest commercial opportunities for Amp at present?
DR: We have a big pan-Euro focus, but the UK, from a storage standpoint is going to be the leading market for us. We have similar ambitions in a couple of other European markets where we see the opportunity as being exactly the same – massive penetration of EVs, massive grid instability, requirement for storage from both the utility scale standpoint as well as the distributed side.
I would say also Australia. Australia is at the forefront of energy transition, as is the UK. It’s a big focus of ours for two reasons. One is not just the power opportunity in Australia around battery storage and solar or battery storage and wind, but also green hydrogen. They want to be a real superpower in the export of green hydrogen, green ammonia. You’ve got very large gas majors, if you will, that understand the molecular opportunity around ammonia and hydrogen – hydrogen is really the next LNG to a certain extent, but where those groups struggle is on the power side because it’s just not their business, so we intend to have at least half of our power generation sites in Australia at least – if not two-thirds or 75 per cent – powering green hydrogen facilities.
What are the biggest challenges Amp Energy faces from an energy storage perspective?
DR: There still continues to be regulatory risk. The legislators and the regulators have to make sure that the regulations support big growth in flexibility. The supply chain is also an issue. And then the abundance of poor quality [projects] that are filling up interconnection queues is another issue. How do you actually go and separate those that are high quality? There’s going to be a flight to quality. How do you separate them in an interconnection queue which is just based on a timestamp? It’s going to be an issue.
What do you think will be the emerging trends in storage in the coming year?
DR: Longer duration storage has to be a trend. I think you’re also going to see consolidation – there’s a lot of small developers that started out in storage and they’re just not going to have the scale to build out a really big storage business. We saw that in renewables and we’re going to see that in storage as well. Also, pricing is high today and I don’t think its going to come down anytime soon so some projects that are not high-quality will fail.