Could grids negate the need for energy storage?

The potential for more grid interconnections in the European transmission system does not minimise the need for energy storage in Europe, according to the European Commission project e-Highway2050. Photo credit: ENTSO-E

The potential for more grid interconnections in the European transmission system does not minimise the need for energy storage in Europe, according to the European Commission project e-Highway2050. Photo credit: ENTSO-E

By Jason Deign

The potential for interconnections to minimise the need for storage across Europe looks vanishingly thin in the face of recent research.

Five future interconnection scenarios published last November as a result of a European Commission project called e-Highway2050 all accept the need for significant storage capacity in order to de-carbonise Europe’s energy system.

The 40-month-long project concluded it would be possible to achieve close to zero carbon emissions by 2050 with an investment of between €100bn and €400bn in electricity transmission infrastructure.

At the same time, however, all the models used in e-Highway2050’s research findings booklet also included an allowance of between 73GW and 113GW of energy storage, compared to 45GW in place in 2012.

“I suppose that the architects behind the project want to demonstrate the high shares of fluctuating energy can be handled,” consultant Paul-Frederik Bach told Energy Storage Report.
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Europe’s controversial election to help storage?

The election of Jean-Claude Juncker as EC president has implications for European energy policy and energy storage. Photo credit: Inelfe: the France – Spain HVDC plus interconnection, part of the European HVDC transmission grid

The election of Jean-Claude Juncker as EC president has implications for European energy policy and energy storage. Photo credit: Inelfe: the France – Spain HVDC plus interconnection, part of the European HVDC transmission grid

Energy storage fans may have cause for optimism if last week’s European Commission (EC) presidential election leads to more joined-up thinking on energy policy. The UK Prime Minister David Cameron was strongly opposed to the election of Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the EC partly on account of the latter’s strong euro-centric stance, which the British leader claimed could stymie hopes of European reform.

However, the appointment of a known euro federalist could also herald a move towards further cross-border thinking on energy generation and distribution, which in turn could favour the development of storage as part of a comprehensive policy package.

As previously covered in Energy Storage Report, the current Russia-Ukraine gas crisis has focused attention on European energy security, an area in which storage could play a significant role.

Meanwhile, policy makers are grappling with the implications of large, intermittent renewable energy inflows from generation sources such as offshore wind and solar PV.

Their concerns are likely to grow as these inflows increase, particularly as some European member states, such as Ireland, are building renewable energy infrastructure with the express intention of exporting it to other countries.
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Energy storage and the Ukrainian gas affair

The role of energy storage in European energy security policy has moved to the fore with the dispute between Russia and Ukraine over gas. Photo: Gazprom

The role of energy storage in European energy security policy has moved to the fore as Russia cuts off gas supplies to Ukraine. Photo: Gazprom

Storage’s role in securing energy supplies looks likely to come more to the fore following events in Ukraine this week.

On Monday the territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia took an energy-related twist as Russia’s Gazprom switched off gas supplies to the Ukrainians, demanding repayment of accumulated debts of USD$4.458bn.

And as Energy Storage Report went to press reports were coming in of a suspected terrorist attack on a Ukrainian pipeline carrying Russian gas to Europe. European supplies would not be compromised, according to sources in Ukraine.

However, the developments seem certain to further raise already heightened European concerns over the security of energy supplies from outside the Union, and particularly the supply of gas from as pugnacious a nation as Russia.
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Friends of Supergrid tables debate

With supergrid developments forming an interesting backdrop to the development of energy storage in Europe, you might like to make space in your diary for a Friends of the Supergrid panel debate at the European Parliament in Brussels on June 26.

The afternoon debate will be hosted by Sir Graham Watson, MEP at the European Parliament and Chairman of Climate Parliament in the framework of the European Union Sustainable Week, and will be followed by a cocktail.

Europe’s low-carbon grid at risk

Speaking at Supergrid 2013 this week, Friends of the Supergrid chairman Marcello del Brenna called on European Union (EU) policy makers to deliver a single market in electricity this decade. Putting in place the regulatory framework to enable large-scale interconnection between member states will provide real benefit to consumers across the EU, and capture significant economic benefit for European industry, he said.

“The members of the Friends of Supergrid employ over 1 million people across the globe,” said del Brenna. “Supergrid is a huge potential economic success story for Europe. The technology to deliver low carbon electricity into homes and businesses around the world is being developed and manufactured here in Europe.

“But lack of action by EU and national governments risks surrendering Europe’s golden opportunity to competitors.”

Securing Europe’s energy independence

An industry with an annual turnover of over €291 billion has this week called on European decision makers to accelerate the delivery of the infrastructure to achieve the transition to a pan-European electricity market. At their second conference, Supergrid 2013, the Friends of the Supergrid have restated the importance of creating a European grid network to capture the large amounts of renewable energy.

This will help reduce consumers’ bills, enable the delivery of 2020 targets and enhance Europe’s energy security and independence. In an update to their 2012 technical report the Friends have shown that regulatory uncertainty, not technology, remains the main barrier to delivering an integrated grid network in Europe.

ABB invention brings the high voltage DC grid closer to reality

While we try to keep bang up to minute, there are some reports that are so important we will include them, even if they are a bit dated. One story that slipped through our net the first time around is the development of a DC breaker for high voltage transmission by power technology group ABB.

Announced in November last year, this is a breakthrough to a puzzle that has had engineers scratching their heads for a century. Solving it was an essential step in creating high voltage direct current (HVDC) grids – which are far more efficient at carrying electricity than current AC technology, even over longer distances,.

The DC breaker combines very fast mechanics with power electronics and will be capable of ‘interrupting’ power flows equivalent to the output of a large power station within 5 milliseconds – in other words, thirty times faster than you can blink.

This important development has potentially big implications for the energy storage industry. Will the advent of the DC ‘supergrids’ (where renewable energy can be shuttled across a continent from areas of high production and low demand, to where the power is most needed) reduce the need for energy storage?

Or, because the technology advances the viability of a cleaner, renewables-based energy infrastructure, will it also boost energy storage, which also has so much to offer a low-carbon economy?