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The Economics of Energy Storage 

Future Grid Labs 2018

On 12 December 2018, the second of three Future Grid Lab conferences, which we have organised with our partner Solarplaza, took place in Rotterdam. The theme of this conference, the economics of energy storage, clearly resonated deeply with the 50 or so industry thought leaders, and our speakers were each able to give their own personal spin on this important topic. By bringing together these subject matter experts, we were able to inspire, engage and inform each other on an issue that will be key to empowering the energy transition over the coming years.

Theme and speakers

Building on the discussion of the first Future Grid Labs (FGL) conference, which focused on grid-connected microgrids, and ahead of the third FGL, which zeroed in on floating solar PV, our event participants in the second conference considered the opportunities, challenges and industry trends that affect the issues surrounding energy storage and supply flexibility.

From looking at how artificial intelligence and machine learning can help forecast energy supply and demand to analysing the data on the state of the market in the European storage market and exploring the synergies between storage and e-mobility, the topic of energy storage was well and truly scrutinised.

Our speakers were:

  • Michael Salomon (Clean Horizon)
  • Elias de Keyser (NEXT Kraftwerke)
  • Robin Berg (LomboXnet)
  • Luuk Veeken (Dexter)
  • Joris Besseling (TenneT) 
  • Prof. Ir. Peter Vaessen (TU Delft)

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The big picture on a big issue

With public and private organisations working hard to decarbonise the economy, and with governments collaborating with businesses to help implement the Energy Accord and the Paris Agreement, the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources is more important than ever. And while renewable energy sources enable lower carbon footprints and reduce dependency on more pollutant energy supplies, they can be less predictable and have higher variability – driving the need to store renewable energy when it is available. 

“I have no doubt about it – the future is electric,” says Peter Vaessen, Professor Hybrid Transmission Systems at TU Delft. “And while its storage is necessary to mitigate the variability of renewable energy sources, we must remember that there are physical limits to battery storage. In my opinion, molecules will still be needed for storage moving forward.”

“What’s more, people should not underestimate the role of power electronics, such as found in AC/DC converters of domestic appliances. The electronic generation and consumption interfaces can play a key role in regulating the raw energy from energy storage systems  connected to the electrical grid.” 

The perspective of the transmission system operator

Nevertheless, the challenges and impact of the energy transition go beyond the shift from fossil to renewable energy sources. As we move from a centralised, fossil-fuelled generation towards a decarbonised and digitised system of generation and distribution with an increasing number of active market participants (including decentralised prosumers), the role of many stakeholders will also shift. 

“For reliable system operation and for the transmission system operator, it’s crucial that market parties develop a range of options to accommodate the need for flexible energy,” says Joris Besseling, Electricity Market Developer at TenneT. “The demand side needs to adapt to varying supply cycles, and storage can be hugely important. One of the big challenges will be for the rollout of infrastructure to keep pace with the market, but I am confident that if the right systems and capabilities are put in place, then energy storage can help drive our shift away from fossil fuel dependency.” 

The role of finance

As several of the speakers at the second Future Grid Lab underlined, the technology and innovation capabilities needed to drive a global energy transition and optimise energy storage are already well developed. Building the business case for energy storage, however, has been difficult up till now.

“Professional services firms such as Deloitte have a key role to play in the energy transition,” says Eric Vennix, Energy & Resources Industry Leader North West Europe at Deloitte. “As a global company with deep industry knowledge, we can act as a facilitator, bringing together different parties and exploring the opportunities of a changing landscape.”

“Dropping battery costs, the rise of electric vehicles and the increasing value for ancillary services are bringing the viability of the business case for energy storage closer and closer. Personally, I’m fully convinced that, for energy storage, the future looks bright!”

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