Energy Storage in Europe To Move Beyond Research

Energy storage in the European Union can expect to see a major wave of pilots over the next few years.
Published: Tue 04 Feb 2014

Energy storage is the final building block missing in the development of an Energy Grid using renewables. Energy storage will play a major role in the development of a low-carbon energy system. In addition, it will supply more flexibility and create a more balanced grid by providing a back-up to intermittent renewable energy. Locally, it can improve the management of distribution networks, reduce costs, improve efficiency, and ensure a higher security of energy supply.

Where does Europe stand?

In 2012, EnergyVille carried out a mapping exercise to uncover the progress of storage developments in Europe.

Peter Verboven, Innovation Developer Smart Grids, EnergyVille, Belgium, explains in his presentation: Surging Interest and Exciting Developments in Energy Storage in Europe, at European Utility Week 2013 that not so long ago, there wasn’t a single body or representative for energy storage, nor was there a systematic treatment of the topic. Although this is now changing, he adds that storage developments are largely at the research level. Companies are focusing largely on technological and business model development in this field.

Storage leads Energy investment

Research by EnergyVille research highlights the fact that Europe is showing great interest in energy storage. The survey covered 14 EU countries and surveyed 391 projects. Germany boasts the highest number of projects at 192, with Spain and Austria following at 47 projects each.

The research shows that of the EUR 985.85 million invested in energy over a three year period, EUR 433.11 million went towards storage. Interestingly, the majority of the interest lies in distributed electrochemical research solutions. The United Kingdom invested the highest amount at over EUR 300 million, while Spain invested around EUR 200 million. Germany, France and Italy follow close behind. According to the research, national funding of the projects is taking priority.

While the region is largely interested in developing energy storage solutions, Mr Verboven points out that there is a huge discrepancy in development between eastern and western Europe.

Regional Trends

The research points to the following:

There seems to be Regional Specialisations - Some countries are focusing more heavily on particular types of technology. For instance, the south of France is focusing more on the use of batteries.

Mechanical storage (pumped hydro, underground pumping, and compressed air) is more popular in places like Norway, Austria, and Denmark.

Influence of grid tariffs-Some countries are financing development through grid tariffs- Norway and UK are examples of this. The research shows that these projects are developing faster than most.

Distributed storage is seeing more activity

Technologies and their support in Europe

Electrochemical storage (batteries and some super capacitors) is the most prevalent storage solution in the region and interest in it is growing substantially. Interest in chemical storage follows, and then thermal storage.

The research points out that the European Commission is choosing to finance mechanical and electrochemical storage projects, largely on the generation side.

Mr Verboven explains that most of the energy storage solutions are still in the research and development stage. He says that the region can expect to see a wave of pilots and scaling-up within the next few years. “Talk will become action,” he says.