Why do we need more global energy storage?

Why do we need more global energy storage?

/ Energy & Power / Monday, 11 April 2022 06:24

The average annual global greenhouse gas emissions were at their highest levels in human history during 2010 to 2019, but the rate of growth slowed, according to scientists in the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC). They say that without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, limiting global warming to 1.5°C as targeted by the UN would be difficult.

Climate initiatives taken by various countries have shown remarkable results. Better policies and laws for energy efficiency have reduced rates of deforestation and accelerated the deployment of renewable energy. Even the costs of solar and wind energy and batteries have considerably dropped over the years.

“We are at a crossroads. The decisions we make now can secure a livable future. We have the
tools and know-how required to limit global warming. I am encouraged by climate action being taken in many countries. There are policies, regulations, and market instruments that are proving effective. If these are scaled up and applied more widely and equitably, they can support deep emissions reductions and stimulate innovation,” says IPCC chair Hoesung Lee.

Getting to a net-zero system requires greater use of electrification. As such, the stability of the electric grid demands a constant balance of the system's supply and demand, requiring that electricity output to match consumption. Energy storage can ease this requirement by absorbing or discharging energy whenever generation and consumption are mismatched, proving useful to the grid during peak demand reduction, load shifting, and buffering the intermittent output of variable renewable energy resources. Conversely, renewable energies produce less power per installation than fossil fuels. To work, wind power capacity will need to increase by a factor of four, and solar photovoltaic by a factor of seven, between 2020 and 2030. The growing role of electricity generated by renewable energy technologies has to be stored efficiently.  Achieving net-zero will be challenging and will require new production processes, low and zero-emissions electricity, hydrogen, and carbon capture and storage.

How much electricity do we need?

An IEA report noted a 5% rise in electricity demand in 2021 with an almost 50% increase met by fossil fuels, notably coal, threatening to push CO2 emissions from the power sector to record levels in 2022. In such a scenario, efficient energy storage solutions will indeed have a key role to play in the transition toward a carbon-neutral economy. According to IEA, to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the share of electricity in final energy consumption should increase worldwide from 20% today to 49% by 2050. Moreover, the share of renewable energy in the power sector should increase from 20% to a massive 88% by 2050.

Storage solutions can also store excess energy and feed it back into the grid as per requirement. Depending on the energy demand and required storage duration, there are different solutions for short, medium or seasonal storage.

Saving surplus energy

A lot of unused electricity is wasted due to insufficient storage. Surplus energy production can be saved and used later. Governments can even sell it at a lower price when energy prices get costlier.

Black start operations

Industrial plants often require their generators for electric power supply and at times when the main generators are shut down, power is provided from the grid through the plant's transmission line. However, during a wide-area outage, off-site power from the grid is not available. Energy storage support becomes essential in the absence of grid power for ‘black start’ operations that need to be performed to power the grid into operation.

Balancing energy supply and demand

Rapidly scaling up energy storage systems will be critical to addressing the unpredictability of wind and solar PV, especially as their share of generation increases rapidly in net-zero emissions by 2050. Energy storage can be used as backup power to avoid costly operational downtime and penalties for non-available service

Avoiding surplus costs and penalties

The biggest challenge for the power sector is meeting the rising flexibility needs while decarbonising electricity generation. Stored renewable energy helps avoid CO2 prices associated with fossil energy production.

Digital optimization

Energy storage solutions can be part of an efficient network of power generating units with the help of smart digital tools. The use of technologies such as AI, machine learning and IoT can greatly enhance data analysis to better understand the touch points related to energy storage.

Investing in energy storage technologies

Energy storage is receiving significant attention.  There are various methods to save electricity and  the most common ones are pumped hydroelectric, compressed air, flywheels and thermal energy storage. In particular, the use of batteries as an energy storage system is seen as one of the most disruptive technologies in the sector. Once commercial applications can be implemented at a large scale, it will have the potential to transform the global energy mix and dramatically accelerate the green energy transition.  However, the social and environmental aspect of the lithium-ion batteries warrant further research for it to be a sustainable energy transition medium.  Regulations and policies will have to formulated to track and monitor the carbon footprint of batteries, including the mineral extraction, their application in products, and end-of-life recycling. In addition, new technologies under development are flow batteries, supercapacitors, and superconducting magnetic energy storage.

The world is facing a crisis in tackling soaring energy bills for households as a result of the short supply of energy due to sanctions imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Emergency reserves are depleting faster than the rate of reserve inventories. Stored  energy reserves will serve the dual purpose of driving the global economy as well as the perfect tool for achieving carbon neutrality.

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