A comprehensive guide to energy storage

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Anneli Teelahk from the European Association for Storage of Energy (EASE) looks at how energy storage can support the energy transition

Nowadays, climate and energy issues are so strictly related that they can almost be regarded as two sides of the same coin. Energy production and consumption have a key influence on the ongoing global warminacg process. At the same time, climate change affects the whole energy system, requiring low carbon technologies that deeply modify the way energy is produced and transmitted. At the Paris climate conference in December 2015, 195 countries adopted the first ever universal, legally binding global climate deal. The agreement sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C. In order to reach the goal of the Paris Agreement on climate change, the European energy system will need to become carbon neutral by the second half of this century.

WHY DO WE NEED ENERGY STORAGE?

To meet the climate objectives, it is paramount to link up the energy system with other sectors and exploit the synergies enabled through an integrated energy system. Energy storage technologies are key for that. Energy storage can provide much-needed flexibility across different timescales, which is essential to transition to a system dominated by variable renewables. Storage can be installed in consumers’ homes, commercial and industrial facilities, and at larger scale connected directly to the grid. Energy storage technologies allow us to store excess energy and discharge it when there is too little generation or too much demand. There are many different types of technologies in development and on the market today: batteries, pumped hydro storage, thermal storage, flywheels, ultracapacitors, liquid air, compressed air, power-to-gas, and others.

DIFFERENT NEEDS, DIFFERENT TECHNOLOGIES, DIFFERENT APPLICATIONS

What all storage technologies have in common is that they provide flexibility at different timescales – seconds/minutes, hours, weeks and even months – which will be essential to achieve a high share of renewables. Therefore, energy storage has the potential to support decarbonisation and flexibility in many different locations of the grid, and can adapt very well to different energy mixes, demand profiles, and other attributes that differ across the EU member states.

The European Association for Storage of Energy (EASE) and its members support the development of all energy storage technologies, which can be deployed in different configurations and suit a wide range of applications, easing the integration of renewables and enabling the decarbonisation of the energy system. In order to clarify the diversity of storage technologies, EASE suggests a classification into five families: chemical, electrical, electrochemical, mechanical and thermal. Being a field that evolves constantly thanks to research, the technologies that belong to each category may also evolve over the years – therefore, the list should not be considered as exhaustive. Technology neutrality should be at the center of EU energy storage policy: the whole toolbox of different energy storage technologies should be developed and deployed across the EU in order to provide flexibility in different locations and at different timescales.

INTEGRATING STORAGE INTO EXISTING INFRASTRUCTURE

Energy storage will support the energy transition across the entire EU and in particular, has the potential to facilitate the transition of industrial, coal, and energy intensive regions (since existing infrastructure can be upgraded or complemented with energy storage solutions), and islands (where energy storage allows reducing the use of costly imported fossil fuels).

Clean and smart solutions that allow for the cheapest route to decarbonisation and the transition to a greener energy mix while supporting the European industry, are essential elements of a truly integrated, greener, and cost-efficient energy system. Smart sector integration is about linking up different economic sectors (including electricity, gas, heating and cooling, and transport) and unlocking synergies through direct and indirect electrification. This can be supported through the deployment of a wide array of smart, cost-competitive energy storage solutions. It is key to have a ‘smart’ sector integration to seize the opportunities provided by digitalisation, automation for a cost-efficient, secure, and consumer-centred energy system

EU ENERGY STORAGE POLICY – WHERE ARE WE TODAY?

On the EU policy and regulation front, a lot has happened in the last few years for energy storage. The Clean Energy Package was finalised in the first half of 2019. The package includes key provisions to open up the regulatory framework at EU level for energy storage. In fact, energy storage was mentioned many times in the regulatory texts – 135 times, to be precise. Quite a result for the sector and for EASE: in the 2009 Third Energy Package, energy storage was not mentioned at all. This means that policymakers, especially at the EU level, are starting to recognise the role of storage as a key enabler of the energy transition.

In December 2019, the European Commission published the European Green Deal with the ambitious target of a net-zero emissions power system by 2050. In 2020, the EU Green Deal implementation resulted in many initiatives that recognise the role of energy storage technologies as enablers of EU decarbonisation ambitions, such as the Hydrogen Strategy, the Sector Integration Strategy, the Renovation Wave and the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy.

The European Green Deal is an ambitious roadmap with numerous policies aimed at transforming Europe’s economy and society. For years, the challenge for the storage sector has been raising awareness and understanding of the role of storage for the system.

In addition to the many changes in policy coming from the European Commission, in the end of 2019 the European Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy Committee started preparing an own-initiative report on energy storage, which was adopted with an overwhelming majority in the plenary on 10 July 2020 and it provides a comprehensive analysis of the solutions that EASE consider essential for the integration of renewables and for transitioning to an energy system in which people will have both clean energy and security of supply. Furthermore, the European Parliament calls on the European Commission to develop a comprehensive strategy on energy storage covering all technologies and to urgently address the barriers that still hamper its deployment.

EASE is pleased to see that European Parliament considers energy storage as the key enabler for energy transition and has taken many steps to make sure that energy storage will be included in the policies and regulatory framework for the clean energy transition.

The last few years have been very exciting and full of new changes for energy storage. Now that energy storage is clearly front and centre for policymakers – the challenge is to ensure that the policies, and their implementation, fully support the implementation of energy storage projects across the EU.

For more information:

Anneli Teelahk is the senior policy officer at the European Association for Storage of Energy (EASE) located in Brussels, Belgium, which supports the deployment of energy storage for the cost-effective transition to a resilient, climate-neutral, and secure energy system. She gave a talk on this subject as part of The Terminal of Tomorrow, StocExpo’s online conference.

www.ease-storage.eu

EASE

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