EU governments perilously ignorant of energy storage

BY BEN COOK & KATHERINE DAMIAN:

  • EU member states lack sufficient provision for storage
  • Up to €300bn is needed for European storage by 2050
  • Lack of storage planning will jeopardise economic recovery

Is Europe failing to see the tremendous potential of energy storage?

It appears so. As European Union member states plot the path to economic recovery following the devastating effects of the pandemic, governments should be ensuring that energy storage is playing a vital role.

But, unfortunately, this is not the case.

First some background. In an effort to aid EU countries’ efforts to boost their economies, the European Commission’s Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) has made €672.5bn in loans and grants available to fund member states’ economic action plans. In order to obtain a share of this funding, states have to submit a Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP).

The commission has made clear that each plan must contribute to a number of key goals set out in its 2021 Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy, the first one of which is “environmental sustainability”.

Given this requirement, it’s baffling that analysis of the 23 RRPs submitted so far reveals that, generally speaking, there has been scarce provision made for energy storage.

Getting serious

If Europe wants to get serious about environmental sustainability, it needs to get serious about energy storage. And, as the benefits of storage seem to have been largely overlooked by EU member states, it’s worth taking a moment to reiterate the advantages here.

Storage provides a valuable source of backup power when outages occur, ensuring uninterrupted power for consumers. It also enables savings to be made on the operational costs associated with powering the grid as well as reducing costs for consumers by storing low-cost energy for use later on.

But perhaps most crucially, storage enables us to make better use of other renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. Storage increases the capacity of wind and solar and facilitates the addition of more renewable energy to the grid.

Energy storage disciples already know all this but, to extend the religious metaphor, it’s clear that the sector has to do more to spread the gospel.

Lack of funding 

The neglect of energy storage by EU member states in their RRPs has not been lost on the European Association of Energy Storage (EASE).

EASE and 12 national energy storage associations across Europe have written to the European Commission to express their misgivings. Specifically, the letter highlights the organisations’ “concern about the lack of attention and funding for energy storage technologies” in light of the review they have conducted of the 23 RRPs.

EASE has highlighted the findings of a European Commission study that stated that, between now and 2050, up to €300bn will be needed to finance new energy storage systems in the EU. EASE argues that the RRF can play a key role in this by providing a chunk of the much-needed funding.

Among the key points raised by EASE following its review of the RRPs are:

  • Many of the national plans do not comply with the climate target of 37% of each member states’ RRF spending, which is set out in EU regulations. The commission should assess the RRPs in this context, EASE argues
  • Many member states do not mention energy storage in their RRPs: “Not investing adequately in energy storage can lead to significant issues regarding security of supply and efficient system operation,” states the letter.
  • Some RRPs do actually include targets for energy storage deployments and explicitly earmark funding for energy storage projects. EASE says that all member states should adopt this approach

Storage shortage jeopardises recovery

To many in the renewables sector, it is alarming that storage has not been one of the keystones of states’ recovery planning and it makes the green transition look very rickety indeed.

Without storage, an energy grid powered by renewable sources will not be stable. A resource as critical to modern life as power supply must be reliable and it is storage that will guarantee this stability.

Nations across Europe would be wise to heed the warning that a future with insufficient provision made for storage is an uncertain future indeed, and such uncertainty will make the hoped-for economic recovery much trickier.

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