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Energy storage: Supporting IRENA’s 2030 vision for doubling global renewables

The IRENA roadmap talks about a pressing need, as well as an opportunity, to use energy storage to aid renewable energy deployment. Image: wikimedia user: Oblivious.
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), is set to launch a technology roadmap for electricity storage at the solar industry conference and exhibition Intersolar Europe next month.

The roadmap is part of IRENA’s Remap 2030 programme, which aims to enable the world to double its share of energy from renewable sources between the years 2010 and 2030, from 18% to 36%, in doing so staving off the worst effects of climate change. IRENA calculates that an estimated 150GW of battery storage will be needed, making storage a vital element in the renewable energy expansion.

The organisation held workshops at global industry events, including a final session at the Energy Storage Europe event in Dusseldorf which took place in March, to which PV Tech Storage was permitted access. Input was sought from a mixture of organisations and companies, including regular PV Tech Storage guest blog contributors India Energy Storage Alliance (IESA) and engineering firm Lockheed Martin as well as national representatives from regions including Pacific Islands that are already considered to be under immediate threat from climate change.

IRENA’s technology roadmap analyst Ruud Kempener, who acted as chair of the Dusseldorf session, spoke to Andy Colthorpe about the project. 

Can you tell us about the purpose of this roadmap please, and who has been involved in its creation and direction?

The main purpose of this roadmap is to create consensus on next steps for international cooperation to support electricity storage for renewable energy. It is an action agenda. The roadmap is written with the policy makers in our 140 IRENA Member states in mind, but as such allows also other stakeholders to identify their role. 

To create global consensus, we had to make sure that representatives from all regions and sectors could participate. The roadmap took over a year to prepare, and we organised three stakeholder workshops in Germany, Japan, and India, and a concluding workshop, also held in Germany. Participants in each workshop included policy makers, industry associations, renewable energy (RE) developers, academia, research institutes, consultancy companies, finance institutions, and other international organisations. In total, more than 150 different people participated from more than 40 countries.

How does the new roadmap build on existing industry and societal knowledge?

Each workshop consisted of around 40-50 people, and we organised the workshops alongside energy storage conferences organised by Messe Duesseldorf. IRENA would invite and support around 15 policy makers to join the workshop, and about 35 participants from the energy storage workshops would join.

In Japan, we also invited national experts from standards bodies of the International Electrochemical Committee to join. Furthermore, we worked in close cooperation with the Global Energy Storage Alliance (GESA), which was founded at the time that IRENA organised its first workshop, to ensure balanced representation from industry. 

I understand from the session I attended that the roadmap divides energy storage into different applications and use cases such as remote islands/off-grid, or residential, transport, can you explain those different sections very briefly for us?

Electricity storage covers many different kinds of technologies, applications, and functions. Initially, we choose to subdivide the roadmap into four priority areas, whereby each area can be more or less relevant for a particular country.

However, in the concluding workshop it became clear that electricity storage deployed for one application can have important implications for other applications. We therefore added a fifth and overarching priority area which focuses on the creation and or identification of synergies among different application areas.

Storage in islands and remote areas is the most important area where electricity storage can support the deployment of renewable power generation.
Consumer-located storage is of importance for those countries where residential electricity prices are relatively high compared to the costs of rooftop solar PV power production and/or where feed-in of power by consumer is discouraged or limited.
Generator-located storage is of importance for island countries, countries with islands or remote off-grid power systems, and countries with weak grid infrastructure where renewable energy resources are located far away from demand centres.
Storage located in transmission and distribution grids is of importance for countries that have limited flexibility in the power system transitioning to renewables-based power systems. Pumped hydro and compressed air energy storage (CAES) are key technologies in this area. Other storage technologies might also be of interest, however their role would be grid support rather than directly related to the integration of renewables.
System analysis for energy storage is required for any of the previously mentioned priority areas. Policy makers need to understand the role of storage, its costs and economic value have to be considered in the context of renewables as well as the wider power sector, and trade-offs between electricity storage and other forms of electricity usage need to be considered. For applications in islands and remote areas, systems analysis should be an intrinsic part of any assessment, while for the other priority areas system analysis needs to considered alongside it.


"…experience with electricity storage systems combined with RE in islands and remote areas can provided the necessary knowledge to accelerate and continue progress of RE deployment in other countries."

IRENA looked at a broad range of technologies and storage applications, including pumped hydro. Image: wikimedia US Army Corps of Engineers Digital Visual Library.
How urgent is it that the issues raised by the roadmap, such as carbon emissions reduction, are tackled?

The roadmap specifically focuses on electricity storage to support the deployment of renewables. For islands and remote, electricity storage is a critical element and urgent issue to ensure that the transition towards renewable power generation continues. A second-order effect of the accelerated deployment of renewable energy technologies through electricity storage will indeed have profound implications for greenhouse gas emission reductions, economic development, electricity access and security aspects to name a few.

[To add] one qualification; the actual potential for RE deployment in islands and remote areas is relatively small compared to the RE capacity added in countries like China, India, Brazil, Europe, or the US. However, experience with electricity storage systems combined with RE in islands and remote areas can provided the necessary knowledge to accelerate and continue progress of RE deployment in other countries.

What sort of action do you hope to see inspired by the publication of this roadmap?

The roadmap identifies 14 action areas ranging from the development of new standards to a global platform to discuss finance for electricity storage in islands and remote areas to the development of new tools to guide policy makers towards the correct modelling tools. For some of these areas, IRENA can be in the driving seat and we’ll propose to our IRENA members to take up some of these areas.

Others will have to be taken up by individual governments, academic consortia or industry.

I understand the roadmap will identify economic opportunities in energy storage as well as vital actions for reducing emissions or providing energy security for nations and communities. Can we ensure that conflicts of interest can be avoided between these areas and is it something the roadmap will tackle?

[I’m] not sure if there are clear trade-offs.

First, RE technologies have become cost-competitive in many regions even with large-scale coal power stations not subject to carbon prices. A transition towards a power system based on renewables will therefore be economic and green.

On security issues, renewable power generation will reduce reliance on coal, gas, diesel oil or uranium imports for those countries that do not have these resources within their national borders.

Electricity storage is an enabler for these two effects. On the one hand, electricity storage will enable higher shares of variable renewable energy (VRE) to be integrated into the grid, ensuring that any technical constraints are met. Furthermore, electricity storage will allow for cost-competitive RE deployment in regions where the grid does not reach. On the other hand — and independently from renewables — electricity storage improves the reliability and thus security of the power system.

An important second-order effect is impact of a secure, reliable and affordable power infrastructure for economic growth and development. We know that in Africa power outages lead to GDP losses of more than 10%, and India’s power shortages in 2012-2013 resulted in a GDP loss of 0.4%.

We often hear – mostly from within the PV industry – that there are some comparisons to be made between the development of solar and the development of an energy storage industry. How true is this and can storage learn solid lessons from solar’s past few years of successes and failures?

I indeed see a number of parallels. First, solar PV technologies and electricity storage technologies are not new – a lot of research took place in the 1970s.

Second, research has been ongoing especially in some of the same niche applications as solar PV, like space travel.

Thirdly, many of the ‘latest’ electricity storage technologies (excluding pumped hydro and compressed air) are modular.

I think that the modularity is [an aspect] where important lessons [can be learned] from solar PV… The success of solar PV (and wind) today ultimately lies with the German feed-in policies starting in the early 2000s, which allowed many communities and farmers to start producing their own electricity. Utilities only caught up much later, and are even caught out in many cases. The balance between engaging utilities and other stakeholders, [such as] communities is still quite challenging. A similar trend could happen for electricity storage technologies.

This article has been amended to reflect the full scope of the IRENA project, which focuses specifically on electricity storage rather than energy storage as a whole, while references to earlier targets set by IRENA have also been updated.


"…the accelerated deployment of renewable energy technologies through electricity storage will indeed have profound implications for greenhouse gas emission reductions, economic development, electricity access, and security aspects to name a few."

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