Energy Storage Must Gain Momentum

The need for energy storage is growing quickly and the industry needs to develop faster to keep up.
Published: Mon 28 Apr 2014

Commercial applications and innovative new energy storage solutions and market developments were the main focus of the third annual Energy Storage - International Conference and Exhibition for the Storage of Renewable Energies (Energy Storage 2014). The annual conference was held in Düsseldorf, Germany in March.

The conference highlighted marketable applications of energy storage and its critical role in the electricity sector, including renewable energy integration.

A number of insights were revealed at the conference which brought together 850 industry leaders:

 

  • The industry wants to see subsidies similar to those that drive solar adoption and development

  • Some think that the public sector should invest in significant amounts of energy storage as this may jumpstart the market

  • Some are calling for a new regulatory framework which will help make the installation process of energy storage less onerous.

The general opinion of most at the conference is that Germany is about to experience a boom in energy storage. Tobias Rothacher of Germany Trade and Invest explains that once the country’s feed-in subsidies expire (in about 2-3 years once targets have been met), solar photovoltaic owners will buy energy storage solutions so that excess power is not wasted.

Mr Rothacher predicts that in Germany it will be possible to store approximately 3.8 TWh photovoltaic energy on an economically viable basis by 2020. He says that this will allow for an installed battery storage capacity of more than 12 GWh.

Energy storage development must pick up speed

The energy storage market is in the same situation today as photovoltaics were ten years ago. However. Energy storage development will have to progress faster as the storage industry must achieve in three years what photovoltaics took ten years to accomplish. This is according to Professor Dr Eicke Weber, Chairman of the Energy Storage Program Committee, President of the German Energy Storage Association (BVES) and Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems.

The North Rhine-Westphalia Minister for Economics, Garrelt Duin, points out that the general conditions and financial support for energy storage should be more clearly organized and enforced. The public sector could, as a “visible consumer”, help to facilitate the breakthrough of energy storage technologies.

According to Frank Wouters, Deputy Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the market share of renewable energies will also increase worldwide. Without increasing costs, the share of renewable energies in the energy supply worldwide could reach 36% by 2030. Energy storage solutions will need to develop quickly in order to keep up with the growth in renewables.

Regulatory and financial conditions

At the conference, many speakers called for corresponding regulatory conditions and the appropriate legal framework to facilitate the breakthrough of energy storage globally.

Whether energy storage is economically viable is a very complex question and depends heavily on the respective local conditions. For instance, countries that import fuel can save a great deal of money by instead implementing renewable power and energy storage. For instance, the Philippine islands fly their diesel for energy production in by using helicopters. In this case, a photovoltaic plant with energy storage will pay off very quickly, says Tobias Cossen of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).

Although the energy storage market is still in the early stages, there is strong momentum from the sector to push past various hurdles.

“The business models for energy storage systems that we see today are not yet bankable from a non-recourse financing perspective, as pointed out by players in the financial industry. A lot of work has to be done, but we can learn from other sectors like solar photovoltaics, to avoid the same mistakes and be faster in some aspects,” explains Matthias Jäger, Head Risk Advisory & Services, Allianz Climate Solutions.