As decarbonisation progresses and conventional thermal generation gradually gives way to other technologies including intermittent renewables, there is an increasing requirement for system balancing from new and also fast-acting sources such as battery storage. In the deregulated context, this raises questions of market design and operational optimisation. In this paper, we assess the real option value of an arrangement under which an autonomous energy-limited storage unit sells incremental balancing reserve. The arrangement is akin to a perpetual American swing put option with random refraction times, where a single incremental balancing reserve action is sold at each exercise. The power used is bought in an energy imbalance market (EIM), whose price we take as a general regular one-dimensional diffusion. The storage operator’s strategy and its real option value are derived in this framework by solving the twin timing problems of when to buy power and when to sell reserve. Our results are illustrated with an operational and economic analysis using data from the German Amprion EIM.
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