Investment In Energy Storage Vital For Renewable Energy Success

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A new report has concluded that investment in energy storage technology is vital for the success of renewable energy and its full integration into the energy sector.

According to a new study published by researchers from the University of East Anglia (UAE), government subsidies should be used so as to encourage further investment in energy storage, without which the authors of the report believe renewable energy will struggle to be fully integrated into the energy sector. The inherent variable nature of leading renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar requires energy storage so as to compensate for times when the wind may not be blowing, or the sun may not be shining. Energy storage systems such as reversed hydro power plants, large scale compressed air systems, and battery storage, are quickly being seen to be a vital companion to most, if not all, renewable energy technology installations.

Without energy storage capabilities, the expected increase of renewable energy deployment will only serve to heighten the volatility of failure, according to the researchers, led by Dr Dimitris Zafirakis and Dr Konstantinos Chalvatzis of UEA’s Norwich Business School.

Which is why government subsidies are such a valuable tool at the outset, to encourage investor confidence in the technology. Government subsidies are even more important, according to the researchers, who found that traditional arbitrage — the idea of buying electricity when it is cheap and selling it when it is expensive — is not enough to justify investment in energy storage at the moment. However, investment in energy storage is nevertheless vital if countries are to meet their own decarbonization targets, which increases the value of government subsidies for energy storage technology.

“It is good to adjust subsidies for renewable energy technologies that have reached maturity, but you have to start thinking about subsidizing storage, as this can take us to using 100 per cent renewable energy sources,” said Dr Chalvatzis, a senior lecturer in business and climate change. “We need sufficient storage and more investment in storage systems in order for renewable energy to reach its full potential. Subsidies would encourage investment, which in turn would enable further integration of renewables into the energy sector.

“The fact that for some days countries such as Germany and Portugal are running their entire electricity network exclusively on renewable energy shows how far we have come to rely on it as a power source, and this will continue to increase.”

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16 thoughts on “Investment In Energy Storage Vital For Renewable Energy Success

    • Ya, I know! Back and forth…storage, no storage, storage, a little storage. I guess it has to do with the price of storage fluctuating with the amazing plunging prices of PV and wind. These three, solar, wind and storage are a trio of near infinite complexity when interplaying. I think it is called “chaos theory”. Three bodies orbiting in space…predict their interactive gravitational effects over time and….voila, chaos!

    • Hi Roger,
      Thanks for putting forward the excellent paper by MacDonald et al (2016). There’s a major assumption in their work which is required for their approach to work. See last sentence of the Abstract:

      “This reduction in carbon emissions is achieved by moving away from a regionally divided electricity sector to a national system enabled by high-voltage direct-current transmission”

      We are too far away from having that grid and the regulation that go with it at the moment, especially in Europe. I hope that explains why are studies are so different. We’re essentially looking into different things (let alone geographically different EU vs US).

  • I’ll file this study along with the other opinions I’ve heard. Maybe some context might be added to this article. Context where these opinions actually are accurate.

  • Storage + demand management

    There is a lot of room for demand management like season manufacture (ej. only summer).

    Renewable thermal is important too.
    How to reach high temperatures in a easy way that allow to use it for concrete, steel and such things?

    100% renewable electricity is only the beginning

  • This study hypes storage but ignores much cheaper options like demand management, efficiency, transmission, energy imbalance markets, etc.
    Storage is wonderful and becoming less expensive, but its the most expensive way to add renewables. Right now, there are few areas that need or can benefit from storage. Overall, large connected grids can add much more renewables without needing storage. Look at Germany where storage is not expected to be needed for another decade or over 60% renewables.

    The issue is complicated, with voltage and frequency regulation, shifting, daily variation and seasonal. Different storage for each application. Some of the early applications are for short term storage, like daily load shifting, voltage and frequency regulation, stability enhancements against transients, etc.

    But all that is a far cry from the seasonal storage and extensive load shifting needs envisioned at 100% renewables. Even then, storage is only 10% of capacity from some studies to no storage and overcapacity in others.

    The case for renewables needing storage is over hyped. The need is much later and much less than imagined.

    • Yes, there’s a long list of things to do before resorting to storage.

    • Hi eveee,
      I suppose you have not read the paper; otherwise I agree that the media materials may seem like we are over-hyping storage. No doubt, as you are saying, there are many more things to do to add renewables and it would be a shame to consider only storage.

      Depending on the type of storage you refer to, it is certainly not the most expensive way to add renewables. That is PHS and CAES looked at in our paper; not batteries. Batteries could have a very important role to play when in the future we have millions of grid connected electric cars. I see less of an opportunity for grid-scale batteries (not for adding renewables at least).

      We are also looking into a variety of energy trading strategies for storage systems, most of which are not long-term/seasonal but much shorter term which I think fits with your argument about what is needed.

      Last point, Germany may not have storage of their own. They can cope with extensive wind and solar energy mainly for two reasons:
      1. export capacity to neighbouring countries that do not rely as much on renewables.
      2. storage interplay with the hydropower plants of Norway. Essentially Norway is Germany’s and Denmark’s battery.

      ENTSO-e publishes some great free data on power transmission between countries and of course all energy exchanges have detailed trade data where you can take a look at that. We used exchange data in our study too.

      • Can you give us a link to the paper? Or is that controlled access?

        • Hi Frank,
          I am afraid I can’t share the actual journal paper (copyright is with the journal). I will see what alternatives are out there; I think my university does some draft paper sharing and alternatively perhaps writing a blog post will help!

          • Write a blog article and we can publish it here.

            Write for an intelligent group of people who are not energy specialists. Define terms and avoid industry jargon more than you would do talking to people inside your field.

            The ‘regulars’ here understand pump-up hydro and compressed air storage but there are lots of people who are going to see the article and will likely know little to nothing about how those systems work.

  • Seeing that it costs over $40 to read the paper I don’t think many of the people who visit this site are going to be digging into it.

    How about doing a little outreach and share some of your findings here?

    • Good point Bob. I wrongly assumed many people would have access via their institutions but not everyone is working in academia!

      I should probably get a blog article out and link it to our discussion.

  • My only advice is, don’t show this to Republicans, it will only annoy them. Subsidies for anything, even if it staves off mass extinction are taboo. (;oP)

Comments are closed.