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The European Commission (EC) is being urged not to overlook the potential for energy storage technologies to ease the continent’s renewable power transition, as pressure grows on policymakers to bolster Europe’s energy security in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
As detailed in its recently published REPowerEU Plan, the EC has set out plans to bolster the security of the continent’s energy supply by bringing more renewable power generation onto the grid – but there are concerns that its plans do not go far enough.
In an open letter to EU policymakers, signed by 10 senior energy system market stakeholders and trade associations, it is claimed the successful execution of the REPowerEU Plan could be jeopardised unless the strategy is underpinned by a commitment to deploy energy storage technologies.
This is because renewable energy generation can be prone to disruption, particularly where solar and wind power are concerned, which means there may not always be a dependable, immediate supply of it on days when the sun is not shining and the wind does not blow, for example.
As a result, this means there may be periods when energy demand outstrips the supply of available renewable power, but – conversely – there may also be times when more is generated than is immediately needed, meaning the surplus will need to be stored somewhere.
For this reason, the co-signatories of this letter are urging the EC to rejig its REPowerEU Plan to incorporate and champion technologies that enable grid flexibility and energy storage.
“For this plan to be successful, it must be accompanied by adequate targets and policy frameworks for the deployment of energy storage and other flexibility technologies,” said the letter. “They are necessary to enable the safe and efficient integration of renewables into the electric grid, and now is the time to recognise them as the pillars of the European energy transition.
“We believe that if the accelerated near-term deployment of renewable energy sources is to be successful, Europe needs a rapid roll-out of proven and scalable technologies to increase grid flexibility and enable the safe and efficient integration of renewable generation.
“To this end, battery-based energy storage is a quickly deployed, cost-effective and low-emissions solution with the potential to become the backbone of modern resilient, and decarbonised energy systems.”
The letter continued: “Other technologies, such as demand-side response, the improved utilisation of existing storage potential of pumped hydroelectric and other energy storage technologies, as well as the interconnectivity between national electricity markets, are all critical to enabling the European energy transition.”
The letter went on to emphasise that energy storage technologies are proven to work, and in several markets around the world have replaced thermal power plants as a more economical and low-carbon way of providing secure energy during periods of peak demand when supplies of renewables are scarce.
“Despite having access to this ready-to-deploy and cost-effective technology, we continue to rely on high-emission natural gas-based generation, while the Europe-wide targets that would strategically scale up energy storage projects are yet to be developed and embedded in law,” it said.
And although there has been some low-level deployment of energy storage technologies within Europe, its adoption will need to be markedly ramped up if the EC is serious about successfully delivering its REPowerEU Plan, the letter said.
“In 2021, capacity market auctions across Europe awarded approximately 2.4GW of contractors to energy storage, but various studies predict that to increase the security and reliability of energy systems on the continent, we will need up to 200GW of energy storage by 2030,” it continued. “Additional changes to the energy market structure and design are also required to enable the goals of REPowerEU.”
These include the abolition of the “not cost-reflective” fees, levies and taxes that hamper the roll-out of energy storage technologies across Europe, the letter said.
It concluded: “We look forward to working together with the regulators and other market stakeholders, realising the goals outlined in the REPowerEU Plan by delivering technologies, solutions and policy frameworks to secure affordable, reliable and sustainable energy systems for European consumers.”