Back in June, Europe’s political leaders negotiated an increase to the binding renewable energy target for the EU: 32% by 2030.1 This level of ambition is what sets Europe apart as the leader of our global clean energy transition. However, while great progress has been made towards switching to low carbon electricity, we need innovative energy storage solutions to smoothly integrate more renewables onto the grid. China has dominated the rise in global production; now is the time for Europe to put its own ingenuity and determination to good use. And take the lead on storage.
Over the past 30 years we have progressively moved away from a centralised system as we have looked to solve the energy system challenge at the lowest level – think managing generation and consumption within households and businesses then looking to solve it at district, or country level.
Consumers are increasingly taking control of their energy needs, from solar panels on roofs to cogeneration on industrial sites, and electric vehicles to heating you can control on your phone.
In tandem, we are also increasingly seeing sector coupling – the natural integration of complimentary sectors – in this case, buildings, transport, industry, heat and cooling into the power sector.
The culmination of these changes mean that we stand at the very edge of a system-wide transformation. Change is coming from every angle. As we seek to decarbonise and decentralise, electricity, transport and heat are becoming increasingly integrated, and as they do, new challenges arise.
One particularly pressing challenge is how we can continue to match supply and demand as the system changes. It’s no secret that our electricity grid is under increasing pressure from the electrification of transport and heat, the addition of intermittent renewables, and from population growth. The answer is storage.
Storage, in its myriad forms, is key for integrating heat, transport and electricity by providing a more flexible and efficient grid that can meet increasing demand from electrification and flatten peaks. A more flexible and efficient energy storage system would avoid the need for large amounts of generation capacity that is only required to run for a short period of time – an inefficient and uneconomic approach.
Forecasts say that the market agrees. Research by the International Renewable Energy Agency predicts battery storage installations could experience 17-fold growth by 2030 due to the rapidly falling price of batteries. However, in Europe, we are simply not doing enough to take our share of this exponentially growing market.
Current battery production in Europe accounts for just 4% of global demand.2 The European Commission attributes the slow development of energy storage in Europe to market, regulatory and administrative barriers, limited access to grids, and excessive fees and charges.
To level the playing field against Asian competitors, the Commission has proposed a market design initiative in the Clean Energy for All Europeans package to facilitate investment and support the cost-efficient use of storage.
What lies ahead is a huge opportunity for businesses, entrepreneurs and innovators to bring innovative storage solutions to market to bridge the gap. In fact, research by InnoEnergy suggests that a sustainable battery cell manufacturing supply chain in Europe could be worth as much as €250bn a year by 2025. We are about to witness a steep rise in market volume globally, and Europe needs to ready itself to take its share.
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