The global energy agenda is moving quickly, and COP 21 last year was evidence that real progress can be made within the industry, with all countries pledging to pursue measures to keep the earth’s temperature rise below two degrees. Looking forward to the World Energy Congress in October this year, discussions to ensure long term energy equity, sustainability and security for the future will be vital to support the future development and innovation across the globe. In the margins of the Congress, a special session dedicated for the discussion of the future of e-storage is being planned with the attendance of sector leading tech companies.
The promise of deploying energy storage alongside renewables is a key focus for the global energy community, following rapid cost reductions and significant improvements in capacity and efficiency. In the industry, the notion of storage has long been viewed as a ‘game-changer’ which could contribute to solving the volatility challenge of wind and solar electricity generation. Whilst there is plenty of visionary thinking, concrete changes need to be made to ensure e-storage is a viable solution.
Power systems have to be flexible to allow supply and demand to be balanced at all times. As the deployment of wind and solar generation increases globally, the challenge of managing increased volatility of generation grows and hence, the need for increased system flexibility is becoming an urgent issue. The World Energy Council’s recent report entitled E-storage: Shifting from cost to value – Wind and solar applications seeks to investigate and understand the cost base of an array of storage technologies. The goal was not to collect new cost data on technologies, but to use modelling to interrogate what additional factors are necessary for storage systems to be set up and maintained.
The application of renewables alongside storage is one of many models which are being pursued. Due to the wide range of technologies, it is important to consider the types of technologies which can be deployed and the different roles that they can play within the energy system. A grid connected storage system co-located with renewables may need the ability to shift energy on an hourly basis, whilst also supplying high power at other times of the day to deal with the inherent volatility problems associated with renewable energy – battery technologies are often suited to such an application. As a comparison, to support the balancing of national power systems and in order to supply adequate reserve capacity, storage devices which are able to time-shift large amounts of energy over daily time periods are required; in these instances technologies such as pumped hydropower storage are more effective.
To establish viable e-storage solutions we need to ensure policymakers, manufacturers and the public all understand how to make e-storage sustainable in the long term. The Council’s report predicts that the cost of energy storage is to fall as much as 70% over the next 15 years , there are clear steps to make e-storage a more widely used energy system. Cost is always a focus for the energy sector, with policy makers often focusing on the cost, rather than value, when investing in energy management systems. This doesn’t provide a long term solution, as the Council’s report highlights that ‘the important metric is value, where value is a function of both cost and revenue’ . The value of storage can be evaluated differently according to the market; the intrinsic value of storage and the costs avoided by its operation. The wider justification for storage is the long-term trend towards the growth of unpredictable renewables (wind and solar), which creates a need for increasing flexibility. This is what makes storage increasingly valuable. From a country and societal perspective, the value of storage is the ability to provide power quality and reliability, as well as a security of supply. This can be in the form of uninterrupted power supply to end-users, providing some reserve margin or initial power to restart the grid after a blackout. In this context, high reliability is more important than high costs.
Storage creates additional value through its function to level the load, and enables the deferral of grid investment, particularly when there is fluctuation in amount of energy produced by renewables systems. The Council’s report throws light on the cost issues involved, and the challenges policy makers will have to overcome to implement effective e-storage systems, paving the way for governments to make informed decisions about e-storage use. The World Energy Congress will provide an opportunity for the energy community to come together to discuss the importance of such energy infrastructures, with e-storage being at the heart of how we will combat the changing energy market, and ensure a sustainable future for energy.
Hasan Murat Mercan is the Chair of the Turkish National Committee of the World Energy Council, which this year is focused on preparations for the World Energy Congress, Istanbul taking place in October. .