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Energy storage is key for incorporating renewables into the EU grid

Innovative energy storage solutions will play an important role in ensuring the integration of renewable energy sources into the grid in the European Union at the lowest cost, according to a new study published by the European Commission.

This will help the EU to reach its 2050 decarbonisation objectives under the European Green Deal while ensuring Europe’s security of energy supply.

The study aims to provide a picture of the European energy storage environment, in terms of existing facilities and projects and policies and regulatory frameworks so as to identify barriers and best practices.

The Commission noticed that the main energy storage reservoir in the EU is currently Pumped Hydro Storage. However, as their prices plummet, new batteries projects are rising with lithium-ion batteries representing most of the electrochemical storage projects. But overall data availability is relatively poor. Therefore the European Commission is recommending all Member States to ensure appropriate monitoring and follow-up of storage facilities.

Additionally, other barriers to the development of energy storage have been identified both at a national and EU level. The study made several recommendations including a need for standardisation on safety issues and EV interoperability and issues of permitting, double grid tariffs and taxes, price signals and access to ancillary services markets.

In particular, the storage potential of hydrogen is beneficial for power grids, as hydrogen allows for renewable energy sources to be kept, not only in large quantities but also for long periods. 

Early in April, the Commission underlined the importance of biomethane and hydrogen in the EU energy system. In 2017, natural gas represented around 22 per cent of the EU final energy consumption, with natural gas infrastructure playing a correspondingly significant role. However, according to the different scenarios of the European Commission’s 2050 Long-Term Strategic Vision, gas demand in the EU will decrease from the 2015 levels by 20 to 60 per cent in the long term, with the demand for natural gas at least halving.

In this context, a number of studies have been conducted on the potential development of low-carbon and carbon-neutral gases in Europe and its impact on the energy infrastructure. The EU potential for sustainable biomethane is limited, while the technical potential for hydrogen and synthetic methane production based on renewable electricity is large enough to substitute the (remaining) natural gas demand.

Also, countries in Central and Eastern Europe are showing the first signs of opening towards hydrogen technologies, although significant commitments haven’t been made yet.
Among others, Poland has recently announced that a dedicated hydrogen strategy is under preparation to exploit the potential synergies between green hydrogen and the offshore wind farms that are to be built in the Baltic Sea within the next five years.

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