Storage key for the flexible energy system of the future – EUSEW

Storage key for the flexible energy system of the future – EUSEW
Experts discussed the role of storage in a net zero scenario at this year’s EUSEW.

Discussed during EUSEW 2023, energy storage solutions are continuing to prove a key aspect of developing the grid of tomorrow – a grid that can not only cope with the immense amount of renewable energy sources coming online, but one that can actively and flexibly manage this energy for an optimal net zero scenario.

During a storage solutions session at European Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW), experts in the field discussed how policy has been developing when it comes to storage and how it will need to continue to develop as the tech becomes more recognised for its role in a net zero future.

“The energy system of the future, which delivers on targets for climate neutrality, is a system that is going to have new needs, special needs. It’s a system that is going to need stability, flexibility and reliability in a different manner than the system that we know.”

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Sinobas presents during EUSEW. Image courtesy EUSEW.

So said Beatriz Sinobas, team leader for energy security and electricity at the European Commission, DG Energy, who was joined in the session by moderator Patrick Clerens, Secretary General of The European Association for Storage of Energy (EASE), CEO of SolarPower Europe Walburga Hemetsberger, European Affiliates’ Managing Director for Malta Inc. Michael Geyer, Head of Policy and Regulation (Brussels office) at Iberdrola Marta Navarrete Moreno and Chief Policy Officer for WindEurope Pierre Tardieu.

The needs for flexibility, reiterated Sinobas, are going to increase significantly, “particularly if we have a higher penetration of variable renewables, for which we have very ambitious targets. There are studies that suggest the need for flexibility increases exponentially as the penetration of renewables passes 74%.”

Storage for flexibility

According to Sinobas, there are several tools that can deliver flexibility, energy storage being prime among them.

And for Hemetsberger, this is especially true when we look at how “renewables are catching up with fossil fuels very quickly.”

Earlier this year, the International Energy Agency released their World Energy Investment 2023 report, which found that low-emissions power is expected to account for almost 90% of total investment in electricity generation this year, surpassing fossil fuels for the first time.

Increasing renewables equate to an increased need to balance intermittency and Walburga spoke on the needs of energy storage when it comes to future-proofing the grid:

“We need to have all those renewables 24/7 and we need to integrate them into the grid with solutions [for intermittency].”

Specifically, she states, “we need massive assets – flexibility and storage.”

According to Walburga, for PV specifically, 200GW of energy storage will be needed in the EU by 2030.

She referenced a whitepaper from SolarPower Europe, Electricity Storage for EU Renewable Deployment and Energy Resilience, which calls for the 200GW, that they state would cover 18% of REPowerEU renewable capacity.

Walburga speaks during a EUSEW 2023 panel on storage.

According to the whitepaper, which was released earlier this year in January, key policy actions that would be needed for this include the setting of non-binding EU electricity targets for 2030 and development of storage strategies.

When it comes to grid stability, there is also the need for large co-located solar and storage installations, which Walburga refers to as ‘grid-intelligent solar’.

“We have seen the European Commission in the market design regulation proposing to have DSOs establishing flexibility needs and demand response targets, which is great.

“We also see improved rules when it comes to the participation of flexibility into capacity mechanisms and the development of prosumer models with a new right of energy sharing.

“So what’s missing? Two things: [To remove the] double charges for battery storage…This is really something that needs to be urgently tackled. The second is to allow solar and storage and wind and storage to charge from the grid. And to fully live up to this functionality, we [also need] to have proper metering.”

According to the organisation’s white paper, a behind the meter, co-located storage system that forms part of a renewable generation unit receiving financial support is prohibited from withdrawing electricity from the grid.

A consequence of this, they add, is that such a unit, “cannot provide grid services that involve charging from the grid, such as bi-directional frequency response.”

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A matter of policy

This, as well as the role of flexibility and how much it is utilised, has become a matter of policy in Europe.

Earlier this year in March, the European Commission announced revision of the electricity market design, alongside a set of comprehensive recommendations for storage systems, with flexibility a driving theme.

Stated Moreno: “As said by Beatriz, there will be a tipping point where flexibility needs are huge and where storage will be important.”

Specifically, she states, there is one key need: “the need to have a stable and predictable regulatory framework.

“Unfortunately, during the last year we have seen a multiplication of uncoordinated interventions across member states in the EU and this has fragmented the international energy market…and eroded investment confidence.”

Moreno during the panel discussion on storage at EUSEW 2023.

Moreno related this to project bankability and the difficulties of financing projects without a stable framework to work off of.

“The international energy market is the backbone in which companies like ours operate. In Europe, most of the investments (85%) will come from the private sector. We can only get those projects through if we have a stable regulatory framework.

“We are looking at a lifetime of 20, 30, sometime 50 years for these projects. When we go to ask for money, we need to make sure that we can see where the regulatory framework is headed and that there are no sudden changes.”

This is especially true for major storage projects and it is here, where the European’s proposed market design can be seen, added Moreno, as a major positive:

“From this point of view, the Commission’s proposal on the market design gives us a lot of very good elements.

“It restores investment confidence, builds on the good points we have already developed over the 20/30 years of the liberalisation of the markets…and now’s the time to adopt this legislation and ensure the negotiations get it right and move ahead.”