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Covid-19 Lockdown is Beneficial for Indias Renewable Transition

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Renewable power is showing to be resilient against the coronavirus whereas fossil fuel is showing its weaknesses and could see its peak over the next 10 years.

The restrictions to travel that have been imposed in India have meant that the switch to clean renewable energy from polluting fossil fuels is happening at an unexpected rate.

India is currently the second largest consumer of coal in the whole world and with the lockdown that was introduced on 25 March leading to a significant decrease of 30% in electricity demand means that coal power in India has taken the biggest hit.

Back in 2018, the International Energy Agency forecasted that the demand for coal in India would double by the year 2040 which was a huge concern globally as countries aimed to reduce coal usage to meet climate change targets.

However, due to the effects the coronavirus is having, if the correct policies are introduced by the Indian government then the peak of coal usage in India could happen within the next decade.

The director of energy finance studies for the Australia and South Asia region at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis Tim Buckley, has said that he believes India will reach their peak coal consumption over the next ten years.

He went on to say that there is now real potential for India to make swift green transition and surprise other nations around the world by increasing their decarbonisation in a very cost-effective manner.

Before the coronavirus pandemic there was already backing from government in India to increase renewable energy.

Prime minister, Narendra Modi made a pledge at the UN Climate Action Summit in 2019 to double the renewable energy power target for India to 450 gigawatts by the end of this decade. Currently India has an installed renewable capacity of 87 gigawatts with the majority of the power coming from solar panels.

The cost for new coal power in India is 4.5 rupees per unit generated whereas the cost of new solar power is only 2.5 rupees per unit of energy generated. Even taking into consideration the expensive batteries needed to store solar power in for when it gets dark, solar energy still comes out cheaper than its fossil fuel counterpart.

Many coal power plants in India have also been facing problems of their own in recent years as cash flow has dried up meaning many are running well under their capacity.

A recent report shows that last year, more than 66 per cent of additional generating capacity which was added to the Indian grid came from renewable sources.

Even before the coronavirus outbreak some analysts had stated that they could see India were on the right path to a green transition and that coal will not be at the forefront of India’s future electricity growth. The recent pandemic has only highlighted this trend and potentially sped up the process of reducing India’s coal usage.

Solar power and wind power are also advantageous over fossil fuels, especially during these current times as once the power plant has been built they are not reliant on supply chains to power them, unlike coal fired power plants that are still reliant on the supply chain for coal so that they can keen generating electricity.

This factor along with renewables being significantly cheaper per unit of energy generated has meant that India’s transition to a green future may happen much quicker than initially anticipated.

Renewable Energy Transition at Risk in Asian Pacific Nations

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In recent years the Asian Pacific nations were making up over 75 per cent of power demand growth around the world and was the leading region for installations of wind and solar technologies.

However, 150 gigawatts of new renewable projects which were planned for the Asia Pacific countries may now be delayed or even cancelled over the coming 5 years if the recession caused by the novel coronavirus extends beyond 2020, according to Wood Mackenzie, an energy research company. This would make the quick transition to renewable energy from fossil fuels even less likely in the region.

The generations costs of wind and solar power have fallen drastically in the last 5 years. With solar prices dropping by 54 per cent and wind by 29 per cent however in a recession period fossil fuel prices would likely fall meaning that renewables would only become competitive by 2025 according to Wood Mackenzie.

If this does happen, government support is essential within the Asia Pacific countries. Many key governments, including China, have greatly supported renewable power by providing subsidies and policies that encourage investment into the sector. The effects of this are already being shown with the current boom in renewables.

However, as the boom in renewables started accelerating governments started reducing or completely taking away subsidies from the projects. Meaning that renewable projects were then greatly affected by market forces. With the added impact of the coronavirus governments should reconsider their decisions to withdraws subsidies as now more than ever the renewable projects will need them.

Wood Mackenzie’s report assumed that Covid-19 would be controlled over the next few months with a slow and gradual recovery following its control. This assumption was based off the slow recoveries that are already starting to occur in China and Korea. However, if countries come out of lockdown to early then the effects will potentially be even worse as a second wave outbreak could cause a much longer-term economic affect. Potentially leading to an extended recession period occurring.

An extended recession period would make it harder for governments to priorities funding into renewable projects with stimulus measures as they would have priorities elsewhere. This would be a big hit to the renewable energy industry in countries if this happened.

A collapse in the costs of oil and gas will almost definitely undermine the support for renewable energy in nearly all countries. Governments will have less power to provide direct support to renewable energy all whilst the supply chain is disrupted for the industry as well. This will undoubtedly slow the transition from polluting fossil fuels to clean renewable energy in many countries.

Already there have been renewable projects that have been disrupted by the virus, in India and China. However, a longer recession period would see many more developing nations effected as they have less capacity and financial support of their own due to their reliance on foreign investments.

It is expected that investment will continue into renewable power however potentially at a slower rate as there would be less incentives to invest large sums of money into it right now given the current climate. The addition of many low or even negative interest rates within certain markets would make it an attractive prospect to borrow money for new projects.

The main problem however will be that during a weak economic environment many developing nations will find it easier and cheaper to use fossil fuels as they will provide the cheapest power available. This will only delay the transition to greener renewable energy unless governments take action to ensure a green transition is made.

Renewable Energy Could be the Answer to Restart the Economy

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A recent report has stated that green energy may be the answer to drive economic recovery as the economy tries to recover from the effects the lockdown caused by Covid-19 has had.

It is believed that the renewable energy industry would help economic recovery by gains of around £80 trillion between now and 2050.

The International Renewable Energy Agency concluded that increasing the rates of investment into renewable energy may produce massive economic benefits whilst also tackling the climate change.

Francesco La Camera, the director general of the agency has said that the coronavirus has exposed many vulnerabilities and problems within the current system and he has encouraged governments to start investing more into renewable energy so that climate targets can be met but to also help the economy to get going again.

The report from the International Renewable Energy Agency found that an increased rate of investment into the renewable energy industry would aid in the fight against climate change and it would effectively pay for itself.

By investing into renewable energy, estimated gains of £78 trillion above the business as usual scenario would be added to the global GDP by 2050 and for every pound that is invested it would return between £2.40 and £6.40.

The added investment into the sector would also lead to the number of jobs quadrupling to 42 million over the next 30 years. The benefits of using renewable energy would also lead to improved health and welfare around the world.

It is also hoped that increased renewable energy would slow the rise in global temperatures as there will be far fewer carbon dioxide emissions. The report estimated that carbon dioxide emissions could decrease by up to 70 per cent by 2050.

One main way to reduce carbon dioxide would be to focus on investing into green hydrogen. The fuel which burns cleanly can be used to replace the fossil fuel gas that is sued when making steel and cement. The green hydrogen can be produced by using electricity from renewable plants to split water into its two separate elements of hydrogen and oxygen.

The chief executive of the World Resources Institute, Andrew Steer has highlighted how important it is that the correct choice is made as we recover from this pandemic. He stated we can either choose to change how we live and pursue a clean and modern energy system or carry on how we did before lockdown which is a very polluting way.

Dr Fatih Birol who is the head of the International Energy Agency has already called governments to put in place policies that will ensure a smooth green energy transition once we are through this pandemic.

He said that the current crisis should not get in the way of the transition to a cleaner and greener society and that we currently have a very important window of opportunity.

The chairman and CEO of Iberdrola, Ignacio Galan has already vowed that his Spanish renewables company will continue investing billions into renewable technologies as well as new battery storage and electricity networks to integrate all the clean energy. He believes that it is essential that money is investing into green energy because it will benefit the world socially, economically and environmentally and that governments must ensure that they align their economic stimulus and policy packages with climate change in mind.

Lockdown Causing the Wind Industry to Slow Down

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New wind power projects are under threat as the coronavirus has caused a delay and shortage for components such as turbine blades.

The quick rise of the wind power industry is facing a sudden slowdown as the lockdowns enforced around the world due to Covid-19 are affecting supply chains. In turn many new projects are being threatened with being delayed or even cancelled.

Disruption across the world has been caused as countries have brought in different measures to try and slow the spread of the coronavirus. Companies such as Siemens Gamesa and Vestas are facing shortages for components which is putting up to 30 gigawatts of new installed capacity at risk in China, Europe and the United States for this year alone, leading industry bodies have stated.

The wind energy industry was expecting a booming year in 2020 as many developers were racing to complete projects in China and the US before the end of the year as subsidies were then going to decrease. An expected 76.7 gigawatts of new installed capacity were planned to come online which is an increase of nearly 25 per cent on 2019, stated Wood Mackenzie an energy consultancy firm.

However, issues with the supply chain around the world has led to over 30 gigawatts of new wind power at risk of being delayed. These bottlenecks mean that the US, Europe and China could miss out on 16 gigawatts, 4.6 gigawatts and 10 gigawatts respectively of clean renewable energy this year according to the Global Wind Energy Council, American Wind Energy Association and Wind Europe.

Independent consultancy firms have already made the decision to decrease their predictions for this year by up to 9 gigawatts.

Delays in the supply chain have already created a shortage for components such as gearbox bearings, turbine blades and other equipment such as cranes. These shortages only add to an industry which was already becoming stretched to try and meet the high levels of demand due to its rapid growth.

Shashi Barla from Wood Mackenzie has stated that there would be a knock on effect from the shutdown of factories in China. These factories alone account nearly half of the supply chain for the global wind industry and the factories in China were the first to shut down.

As the pandemic spread across the globe more countries had to implement measures to limit the spread. Therefore, other key manufacturing plants in nations such as India, Spain and the United States has meant that around $6 billion worth of turbine components and equipment’s have been jeopardised for this year.

Both Vesta and Siemens Gasesa are already assessing the impact that the pandemic is having on the supply chains and are looking at implementing measures to limit the effects of it.

It is expected that there will be effects to the roll out of new projects over this year however companies are still planning on achieving their installation targets for the year.

Project developers are also concerned about the effects that the lockdown will have on them. During these times capital costs are increasing making it more expensive to complete existing projects and the limited access to finance may slowdown investment into new wind turbine projects in the future.

It’s not all bad news though as Chinese suppliers are now back up and running and trying to make up for lost time by producing above the normal capacity pre lockdown. This is to try and cover any short fallings in supply which may occur.

Reduced Electricity Demand Causing Issues for National Grid

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Reduced usage of electricity during Britain’s lockdown period could cause problems to the countries power grid, the UK energy system operator has warned.

The National Grid has stated that due to the record low demand for power from across the UK that some power plants and windfarms may have to be turned off to ensure that the grid does not get overloaded.

National grid has predicted that demand for electricity could drop by up to 20 per cent of pre lockdown levels. This means that if supply carries on as normal there could be an excess supply of electricity to the grid.

Households and homes in Britain are currently using more electricity than pre lockdown as more people work from home however overall demand has dropped due to the lockdown causing the closure of many offices, restaurants, schools and factories.

The head of the national grid’s control room, Roisin Quinn, has warned that the decreased demand for electricity may put the network under much higher levels of stress. She went on to say that even though the demand has dropped the jobs of system operators are still as important as they have to manage the grid as much as they would have to during peak demand time periods.

Low demand paired with increased levels of power production can lead to a raised risk of local energy grids becoming overloaded and make the energy networks not as resilient to a change of frequency. Where frequency is a measure of the intensity of the energy and fluctuations in this may lead to temporary blackouts.

The plan for the control room of the national grid is to pay the flexible wind farms, who are able to quickly reduce the power they are generating, so that they switch off at short notice. They also plan on reducing the amount of electricity that is imported from Europe through under the sea cables to make sure that the UK energy network does not become overwhelmed.

Fintan Slye, the director of National Grid, has stated that even though the ongoing situation is ‘very fluid’ the National Grid are still implementing many measures to make sure that all UK customers will still receive a reliable and secure electricity supply during the outbreak.

Many of the measures that the National Grid are looking to implement have already been tried and tested in the past, especially in remote locations in northern Scotland. Here demand can often be low whilst electricity production can be high from the strong winds which cause the wind farms to generate excess electricity. However, the measures are planned to be used more frequently and over longer periods of times than previously tested.

It is believed that in some days over summer of this year that demand may fall below the ‘baseload’ output from inflexible power plants, such as nuclear power plants. These power plants can take hours to shutdown safely therefore the National Grid may have to be forced to use emergency orders to shut down some power plants to make sure that the grid does not get overloaded.

The National Grid made its forecasts for the demand for electricity over summer shortly after demand fell to record lows of just 15.2 gigawatts over the Easter weekend which is already below the predictions of 17.6 gigawatts for summer.

Quinn has reassured the British public by stating that the national grid does not expect how the electricity system is operated to be adversely effected.

Favourable Conditions Leads to All Time UK Solar Power Generation Record

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The recent drop in air pollution alongside cool, sunny weather in Britain has led to an all time high of 9.69 gigawatts of solar power being generated last Monday.

Cool, sunny weather in the UK and a significant drop in air pollution levels due to the lockdown caused by the coronavirus has meant that there has been a new record set in Britain for the amount of solar power being generated. Solar farms peaked at 9.69 gigawatts of power into the grid last Monday afternoon.

The record was recorded by the live UK solar power generation tracker at the University of Sheffield. The feat was achieved at 12:30pm on the 20 April which beat the previous record which was a peak of 9.55 gigawatts in May 2019. Experts believe the new record may partly have been driven by the less polluted, clearer skies due to the lockdown.

At this moment in time, Britain is experiencing much lower levels of air pollution because fewer cars are on the road and fewer industrial activities are taking place due to the lockdown which is in place to try and stop the spread of the coronavirus. The reduced air pollution levels have led to clearer skies.

The clearer skies paired with sunny weather and cooler temperatures are the ideal conditions for maximising the efficiency of solar photovoltaic cells and it is expected that more solar energy generation records will be broken over the coming months, stated the Solar Trade Association.

The record means that at the peak time of solar power generation on Monday afternoon, solar PV cells were generating nearly 30 per cent of the overall demand for electricity in Britain, stated Chris Hewett the chief executive of the Solar Trade Association.

Hewett went on to say that the favourable weather conditions and the decrease in air pollution levels means that solar power is able to provide record levels of clean and cheap energy to the UK grid.

The sharp decline in economic activity and many more of the British population now working from home has led to a massive drop in demand for electricity. The decreased demand for electricity with ideal conditions for both wind and solar power had meant the UK has also gone on its longest run in 2020 without using coal to power the grid.

The most recent record follows on from more promising news for the renewable energy industry as renewable energy sources produced a record amount of 44.6 per cent of electricity towards the grid for the first quarter of this year. These are just more examples of renewables raising the bar in energy production, stated Dr Nina Skorubska from the trade body REA.

Dr Skorubska also believes that governments need to ensure that climate change is still one of their top priorities during this pandemic and that it does not get neglected.

Even more renewable records are expected to be set across all of Europe over the coming week and months as the lockdowns across the continent will lead to a drop in demand for electricity therefore renewable sources will be able to take up more of a share of the electricity supply.

Aurora Energy Research revealed in their update last week that the demand for electricity throughout Europe had decreased by 10 to 20 per cent because of the ongoing pandemic and the prices of energy related commodities had fallen by over 40 per cent.

Last Year was Europes Hottest on Record

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Recent data suggests that Europe is warming at a rate faster than the global average as last year was the hottest on record.

Around the world, 2019 was the second hottest on record however multiple heatwaves across Europe pushed the air to hotter temperatures.

In the last five years, on average, the global temperatures were just over 1 degree Celsius warmer than those at the end of the 1800s. Over the same period, Europe has seen temperatures rise by nearly 2 degrees Celsius. The data has been published as Earth Day reaches its half century anniversary.

The World Meteorological Organization has said that the impacts of climate change and the physical signs that come with it have sped up in the last five years, which were the five hottest years on record.

The European data which is provided by the EU’s Copernicus Climate Service shows that 11 out of the 12 hottest years on record in Europe have took place since 2000.

The report from the European State of the Climate in 2019 has shown that the summertime heatwaves and warm weather led to droughts in many places within Europe.

During this time, Britain saw its new all-time high temperature recorded of 38.7 degrees Celsius in Cambridge whilst temperatures remained 3-4 degrees Celsius warmer across the whole of Europe.

The warm temperatures correlate with the increased amount of sunshine that hit Europe over 2019. The number of sunshine hours across Europe was also another record.

The hot summer over Europe was then followed by some of the wettest autumn and winter months. November saw nearly four times the amount of normal average rainfall across many regions in southern and western Europe.

On the other hand, the European Arctic region was below the record temperatures from years previous with the temperature being just 0.9 degrees Celsius warmer than normal.

However, all of the data does show that there is a clear trend in the temperature rising over the last 40 years or so and that Europe’s temperature is rising at a rate significantly quicker than the average for the rest of the world stated Professor Rowan Sutton, director of science from the UKs National Centre for Atmospheric Science.

Sutton believes the two main reasons for this is because land regions warm considerably faster than oceans, as the moisture over a body of water slows the rate of warming. Secondly due to decreases in certain forms of air pollution it has led to increased warming, especially during summer months.

The main statistic that is going to worry scientists is that average mean temperatures across Europe have been almost 2 degrees Celsius warmer than at the end of the 19th Century. This means that the continent is going to struggle massively to keep temperatures well below a 2 degree Celsius increase as agreed in the Paris Climate agreement.

The ongoing lockdown due to Covid-19 has led to a decrease in greenhouse gases and emissions however experts in the field are keen to get across the point that this is only temporary and that much more will need to be done to stop this worrying trend escalating.

Scientists believe that it is essential to carry on tackling climate change even during the coronavirus pandemic to try and make sure that any further temperature rises are restricted.

Reduced Visibility in Urban Africa Links to Increased Air Pollution

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The reduction in visibility in three major African cities has shown the vast increase in air pollution over the last 5 decades. A recent study, from the University of Birmingham, has shown that there has been an increase in the man-made pollution from economic development and urbanisation.

Due to the lack of infrastructure Africa does not have much in the form of air quality monitoring. Therefore, the scientists have used data on the visibility of the air for the capital cities in Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia as a measurement.

Since the 1970s the researchers found a large reduction in the visibility within the cities. Nairobi had the greatest loss of visibility of 60 per cent whilst Kampala and Addis Ababa had losses of 56 per cent and 34 per cent respectively. The large reduction in visibility is thought to be from increased particulate matter emissions which is produced from energy generation and vehicles.

The particulate matter pollution levels in each city have seen a significant increase of 182 per cent in Nairobi, 162 per cent in Kampala and 34 per cent in Addis Ababa since the 1970s to now.

The researchers from the University of Birmingham published what they found in Environmental Research Letters and are now calling for an approach to be led to try and understand the main cause and effects of high air pollution levels in the cities of East Africa. This will then allow for improvements in the air quality levels whilst promoting a sustainable and green future economic development for the nations.

Dr Ajit Singh, a co-author on the report stated that the evidence shows that the quality of air in African cities is more often than not poor which is due to the increased population growth and urbanisation which causes higher levels of construction, energy usage, vehicle emissions and industrialisation.

Dr Singh went on to comment on his concern on the levels of particulate matter in East Africa and the negative side effects that it has on human health. The lack of air quality monitoring means that there is little data available but the visibility in each city can be used as a proxy.

Dr William Avis, a co-author has stated that high air pollution levels are a major economic, health and social threats to any city around the world and thus East Africa is no exception. However, the lack of available reliable air quality data does make it harder to track the pollution levels.

The lead of A Systems Approach to Air Pollution and co-author on the report, professor Francis Pope commented that it is essential to find out the main causes and effects of high air pollutions levels for the African cities as they are very rapidly developing which will lead to further increases in their air pollution levels. Poor air quality has many knock-on effects for a nation as governments have to increase their spending on health, loss of productivity and the impact illness will have on education which slows the country’s development down.

The scientists also compared the changes in pollution levels to the GDP statistics and population growth rates. They found that the increased particulate matter was linked with an increase for the nations GDP and the populations for each of the three cities. Links were also found between the levels of particulate matter and the season, during the dry month’s visibility was lowest whilst being highest in the wet months. Visibility as also the highest on Sundays as there is less traffic and emissions from industry.

Some UK Households Paid to Use Electricity During Lockdown

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Thousands of households in Britain are to be paid for the electricity that they use during the day for the first time due to the recent surge in renewable energy being produced by solar and wind projects during the coronavirus lockdown.

Last Sunday, windfarms in the UK contributed to nearly 40 per cent of all electricity produced whilst solar power was making up almost a further 20 per cent. During this time, fossil fuels only made up less than 15 per cent of the total power system with only 1.1 per cent of that being produced from coal fired power plants.

Due to the lockdown and restrictions imposed by the government, the demand for electricity in Britain has decreased by around one tenth. The closure of restaurants, pubs, factories and businesses has led to the lowest market price for electricity in ten years.

For households on a new type of home energy tariff were even being paid to make use of electricity during the day last Sunday. The strong breezes alongside the sunny weather helped produce plenty of clean energy to meet the reduced demand for electricity in the UK.

The ‘negative electricity prices’ were previously only obtainable during night hours as this is when demand for electricity is at its lowest. However the impact of the lockdown caused by the coronavirus coupled with the favourable spring weather has meant that some households will be able to make money from using clean energy sources during daytime hours.

Homes which are on the Agile Octopus energy tariff, which is provided by Octopus Energy, were contacted last Saturday by Octopus Energy to let them know that they would be getting paid for each unit of electricity they used during the sunniest hours on the Sunday.

In the hours 11am till 4pm on Sunday, the customers earned from 0.22p to 3.3p per kilowatt hour. This was done as an incentive to help make the most of the abundant clean energy in the UK.

The lockdown in the UK, caused by Covid-19, has so far caused the demand for energy in Britain to drop by between 9 per cent and 13 per cent, state analysts from Cornwall Insight. These has been an increase in home energy usage as more people self isolate and work from home however this increase is outweighed by the large decrease caused by the shutdown of many businesses and factories which need large electrical loads.

Households which are using variable energy tariffs will also more than likely see some energy bill savings as they track the wholesale energy markets price.

The recent drop in the global gas market price over the last year along with the lockdown led to the wholesale price of electricity in the UK to fall to £28 per megawatt hour last week. The market price for electricity has already dropped by a third from January this year and is a lot lower than the recorded market price of £44 per megawatt hour this time last year.

Scientists Use MRI and NMR Technology to Help Improve Battery Storage

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Researchers are working on devolving new technologies to help create large scale storage batteries to store renewable energy. This challenge is one of the last remaining hurdles for the world to get by in order to transition to a fully sustainable planet.

New tools have been created by a team of scientists working at the University of Cambridge in order to help the breakthrough and find more efficient and sustainable ways to store energy in large scale energy storage systems.

The techniques that are being used are based upon the principles that are used in nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These methods can also be used to help find any faults or defects in electrochemical cells or batteries.

The problem to store excess renewable energy has had researchers working on solutions for some time now. With the aim to be able to store excess energy that is produced during particularly windy or sunny periods from the wind farms and solar panels. Then at times when there is little to no wind and not very sunny, the excess energy that has been stored can be used to power the grid.

One of the solutions that researchers have found is using a redox flow battery. This is a storage cell, which can sometimes be as big as a building, which is made up of two tanks containing electrolyte liquid, one positively charged and the other negatively charged. The size of the storage can just be scaled up by increasing the size of the tanks. This technology was the main subject for the research team at Cambridge.

The problem with these batteries is that they degrade too quickly to be used in commercial applications however they are able to store enough renewable electricity to help power towns and cities.

The professor who led the research team, Clare Grey, stated that to make progress in the field it is essential that they are able to work out how the systems work but also what makes them fail.

Normally, companies who make redox flow batteries use vanadium as the electrolyte. However, this is very expensive and toxic, so the researchers used organic materials which are more sustainable and less expensive.

The main problem with using organic materials is that they degrade quicker and therefore is not optimal for a large scale storage use. Scientists have known this for a while; however they did not know the reason to why they degrade so much quicker.

To try and work out why they degrade the researchers used nuclear magnetic resonance to study the batteries similar to how an MRI would work. This allowed the researchers to read the resonance signals from the molecules in the batteries in their normal state and once they had degraded.

This allowed the scientists to have an insight into the different mechanisms of each reaction, including radical formation and electron transfers the differing redox active elements in the tanks.

The findings of the research were that by charging the redox batteries at a lower voltage it would massively decrease the rate of degradation and therefore increase the lifetime of a battery. They also found that changing the structure of the organic molecules can make them degrade at a slower rate.

The group of researchers now hope to further their research in the field by moving onto different types of redox flow batteries and other types of batteries in general.