EASE’s Susan Taylor: ‘Urgent need for storage not realised’

By LUKE ATKINS

  • EASE says annual storage deployment must hit 14GW to meet climate goals
  • But no EU-wide storage strategy ‘driven by targets’ exists, says EASE’s Susan Taylor 
  • A future energy system without storage is ‘inconceivable’, Taylor adds

Europe’s powerbrokers need to spend a little more time listening to Susan Taylor.

Taylor is an energy storage analyst at the Brussels-based European Association for Storage of Energy (EASE), which was established to act as a voice for the storage sector in Europe.

Unfortunately, it seems that, sometimes, that voice is not being heard.

Research published by EASE concluded that storage deployment must hit 14GW annually to bring Europe’s 2030 climate goals within reach.

Despite the warning, Taylor – who earlier this year was named one of Energy Storage Report’s ‘Top 40 Women Leaders in Energy Storage’ – says there is no EU-wide storage strategy driven by targets and, worse, the market simply “does not recognise the multiple services and benefits that storage brings to the evolving energy system”.

It’s a worrying situation, as well as being a somewhat surprising one, especially given the recent launch of the REPowerEU plan, which aims to rapidly reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels.

Energy Storage Report spoke to Taylor to find out what the barriers are to the wider adoption of energy storage, and what EASE is doing to try and overcome those barriers. Taylor told us that there were “few concrete actions” being taken at an-EU wide level to accelerate the energy storage sector’s growth, and explained why a future energy system without storage is inconceivable.

What are currently the biggest barriers to the wider adoption of energy storage in Europe?

Susan Taylor: At the macro level, the two main barriers are the lack of clear investment signals and a need for a market design reform. This is really hampering the massive ramp-up in storage deployment that is needed today.

Regarding investment signals, this stems from the absence of an EU-wide storage strategy driven by storage targets. This would provide the necessary long-term vision for market players, utilities, investors and policy makers to make strategic decisions with confidence. Storage targets have had great success in other regions – such as California and Spain – which recognised early on that storage targets are a necessary complement to clean energy and environmental policies.

The energy market in Europe is not tailored for storage. The market does not recognise the multiple services and benefits that storage brings to the evolving energy system. This makes it difficult to enter the market with new technologies when the services they provide are not yet attached to specific products. For example, there’s no specific product right now for minimising curtailment, and no incentives to store energy during months of high renewable generation for high consumption months. Storage is currently only accessing market segments that are not designed to fully capture its benefits and remunerate them adequately.

How is EASE working to overcome those barriers?

ST: EASE is working with European institutions to improve market design and strengthen the business case for storage. We are also cooperating to allocate research and innovation (R&I) funding and financial support for demonstration products and the marketisation of energy storage technologies. We aim to increase the awareness of storage with policymakers and decisionmakers, as well as educating on the need for different storage technologies and how they bring value to the future energy system.

What are the biggest challenges facing energy storage companies?

ST: This depends on the company, technology and sub-sector (front-of-meter or behind-the-meter). Nascent technologies with high initial capex requirements and limited commercial deployment lack the track record to attract investors, due to perceived high risks. Front-of-meter technologies providing flexibility services to the grid often face competition from polluting fossil fuel generators, as well as dealing with permitting issues, unclear procedures and lengthy processes for project approval. At a broader level, differences in regulation from country to country makes developing storage projects more difficult.

EASE’s stated aim is to “build a bridge between EU policymakers and the energy storage stakeholders”, how successful has this been and what more needs to be done?

ST: There has never been as much interest from policymakers in energy storage as there is today. We have seen a clear recognition of the role of storage in the energy transition and in limiting gas imports in the context of REPowerEU. In the EU Parliament there is a wide base of support for storage.

That said, more needs to be done. There are few concrete actions being taken to accelerate the sector’s growth, and the urgency needed has not been fully realised. The EU needs to implement a storage strategy with clear actions for boosting storage deployment. In a paper published recently by EASE on defining energy storage targets, we estimate that storage deployment needs to ramp-up to at least 14 GW/year to achieve 2030 climate goals. Right now, market projections are far below this.

Do you think storage is now recognised as an indispensable part of the energy system? 

ST: In the case of policymakers, the understanding is not fully there yet, but this is certainly growing. On the other hand, utilities, transmission system operators (TSOs), distribution system operators (DSOs), and off-takers – such as energy intensive industries and large companies – often recognise the importance of fully decarbonising their activities, which needs to be supported by energy storage.

The energy crisis in Europe has also highlighted the importance of Europe’s energy security. This has rapidly shifted the focus onto alternative clean energy solutions, including energy storage, leading to greater recognition for energy storage.

However, fully recognising storage as an indispensable part of the energy system requires a complete shift away from traditional fossil-centric views of energy production. What is happening today is counterintuitive. As wind and solar generation rises, there is an increasing need for flexible backup supply to compensate for lower production periods. But more and more gas turbines are being fired up to cover these energy shortfalls, resulting in continued reliance on gas and further greenhouse gas emissions. What is missing is an understanding that for all applications traditionally filled by fossil fuels, we need to start thinking about renewables and storage as the future.

What do you think is the biggest opportunity for energy storage in the coming year?

ST: Europe’s decarbonisation objectives are clear and enshrined into law. In light of REPowerEU, this provides a push for adopting greener solutions, including storage. Many pieces of the puzzle such as cost, legislation and awareness are slowly coming together. This is very positive but more needs to be done to fully unlock all the benefits of storage.

There is a huge opportunity for energy storage to be part of the security of supply solution, by enabling variable renewable integration, minimising costly curtailment and reducing reliance on fossil fuel imports. There are also many opportunities for storage to decarbonise other sectors such as heating, cooling and industry. In the end, there is no conceivable future energy system without energy storage.

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