Flexible sector coupling is to be a key focus of this year’s Energy Storage Europe, which began today in Düsseldorf, Germany.
The three-day event is one of Europe’s flagship gatherings for energy storage providers, producers and policymakers, and an engaging keynote opening session pressed home the important role that renewable energy – such as wind and solar power – can play in aiding the wider adoption of storage front-of-the-meter in Germany, Europe, and beyond.
Sector coupling, which is a rather clunky term for greater integration of power, heat, gas and fuels, is becoming a viable and attractive means for accelerating the decarbonization of grids, enabling different generation sources to share their energy across various points of consumption.
This power-to-X approach is being embraced by a growing number of innovative firms, many of which comprise the 170 exhibitors on the show floor. Eurosolar president, Prof. Peter Droege, had the task of welcoming attendees, and he dove straight into a rallying call for a more unified support framework for storage in Europe.
“This is a dynamic industry, a rapidly changing world, but while there is no unified framework to support storage, perhaps the promise is not as rapidly charged as it should be,” Droege said. Eurosolar used the platform to announce its new NEMO initiative, which stands for New Energy Market Order, and aims to convince policymakers around the world to drive a renewables-based economy.
“This requires not just technological and policy support but also a financial focus that is essential for global development,” Droege stressed. Eurosolar’s hope is that mainstream investments in energy can be diverted wholesale to renewables, with the current global $1 trillion of subsidies for nuclear and fossil fuels a tempting pot that could be shared more equitably. “This would be more powerful than one FIT alone,” Droege added.
Heinrich Gärtner of the German Energy Storage Association (BVES) remarked that global politicians now recognize that their countries’ grids cannot manage for much longer without storage. “The German government has committed to advancing storage and reforming outmoded regulatory barriers,” Gärtner said. “We have been fighting for these changes for a long time, and hope that the commitments under the new coalition will be realized. Storage can only thrive with suitable regulatory conditions, without which the wider economy can stand to lose.”
Germany is able to provide 10% of its population with electricity, and nearly 10% can be supplied with heat via present heat storage capacity. In 2018, Germany raised €5bn in revenues in storage. “Not huge, but compared with the lignite industry, it’s already half the size,” said Gärtner.
A more flexible grid
Andreas Hauer of ZAE Bayern presented a simple explanation of sector coupling’s efficacy, explaining that the potential is vast for storage and renewable energy to combine with other sectors, from power to heat, and offer not just a shift in time between supply and demand of electricity, heat and gas, but also a shift between the sectors. “This is the flexible nature of sector coupling, and it will help grids to use their energy more efficiently,” Hauer said, bringing transportation, industry and buildings under one, integrated distribution framework.
Building on this theme of integration, former Greens politician Simone Peters said that countries with higher levels of nuclear and coal power have higher instances of power interruptions. Germany, for example, suffered just 13 minutes of dropped grid in 2017, compared to more than 50 minutes for France and the U.K. “Storage, wind, solar, complement each other with stability and flexibility options. This means that even with a new energy system of 100% renewable energy – a goal of the German RE Federation – reliable and predictable power generation needs to be guaranteed all the time.
“More sector coupling relieves the grid, saves costs, and creates more flexibility. Achieving this is no longer a question of technological feasibility, but of political will.”
Thorsten Herdan, a local politician, brought the session to an end with a plea for countries to consider the impact of energy efficiency drives in helping to bring down demand on the grids. “It is clear we need to invest in grids, speed up their expansion to handle more renewables. But we also have to look at the alternatives. We wll not be able to achieve our goal to decarbonize the whole energy demand if Germany, for example, remains at its current 2,500 terrawatt hours of energy demand. Efficiency needs to be stepped up.”