Storage is only part of the solution

Friday November 29, 2013 23:17

Rob Kreiter, programme manager at ECN:

The focus on energy storage is almost starting to become a hype. But is this really justified? Should we indeed go for energy storage, for example in batteries? The answer is yes, but storage is not the only road that leads to Rome. Storage in expensive batteries, which is quite common in Germany at the moment, is not the ideal option for the Netherlands. There are more interesting options.

The question is not: how can we store energy, but: how can we deploy a variable supply of energy from renewable sources in the most efficient way? If we look at the energy system as a whole, including future sustainable energy use, this question can have multiple answers. 
Storing the surplus of electricity is one answer. However, this suggests that the electricity from sustainable sources cannot be used. A second answer will be provided in the future by smart grids: balancing the energy use to the supply. In simple words: at times of strong winds and high electricity supply, the refrigerator or cold store refrigerate harder, the washing machine is washing and the electric car is charging.

A third answer is conversion. Next to the electricity obtained from wind and solar, there is also a need for other types of energy such as for example heat, transport fuel or chemicals for the industry. Electricity should best be seen as a universal energy carrier, which can be deployed as electricity, but also as an intermediate step towards other energy carriers. The supply from (offshore) wind energy in the Netherlands will grow significantly in the coming years.  If you combine this with the presence of strong chemical and gas sectors along the Dutch coast, it immediately becomes clear that many opportunities are open for the taking here.

Storage, flexible use or conversion? For each local situation, a business case will need to be made based on the best mix, enabling the most efficient use of sustainably generated energy.

ECN is elaborating the various options together with businesses. We have knowledge of the policy-related and financial aspects, but we also possess the technological know-how. This enables us to have a broad overview of the entire energy system, ranging from broad scenarios of the future to the bolts and nuts of a concrete installation.

Category: November, Corporate