At any moment in time, the consumption of electricity has to be perfectly matched with the generation of electricity. This balance is necessary in all electricity grids to maintain a stable and safe supply. Energy storage can stabilise fluctuations in demand and supply by allowing excess electricity to be saved in large quantities over different time periods, from fast storage in seconds to longer storage over days.
Energy storage has a key role to play in the transition towards a carbon-neutral economy, and it addresses several of the central principles in the Clean energy for all Europeans package. By balancing power grids and saving surplus energy, it represents a concrete means of improving energy efficiency and integrating more renewable energy sources into electricity systems, but it will also help enhance European energy security and create a well-functioning internal market with lower prices for consumers.
A variety of technologies to store electricity are developing at a fast pace and are increasingly becoming more market competitive, but there are significant challenges in terms of limited access to grids and excessive fees. To address these issues and identify how to further develop energy storage technologies, the European Commission published guiding documents on proposed definition and principles in June 2016 and the role of electricity in energy storage from February 2017, the latter of which was published alongside the second state of the energy union report.
In addition, to continue to promote technological progress and foster dialogue among key stakeholders in the field of energy storage, the Commission also oranises events to share best practices and identify challenges, including a high-level roundtable on energy storage and sectoral integration in March 2018 and a roundtable on the role of energy storage in the energy system of the future in May 2015.
Hydrogen is one of the most popular forms of energy storage and its capacity to store large quantities of renewable energy sources over long periods of time demonstrates its significance in the clean energy transition. In addition, hydrogen can help decarbonise sectors that still largely depend on conventional fuels. When renewable energy sources are converted into hydrogen, and the hydrogen in turn is combined with CO2 or other elements, this allows the processed hydrogen to be used in transport as fuels, in industries as material and in agriculture for fertilisers.
Batteries represent one of the main forms of energy storage as well as one of the most advanced low-carbon technologies. Driven by the ongoing clean energy transition, demand for batteries is expected to grow rapidly over the comin years, but further research is needed before they can be used on a large scale and in a variety of forms.
To further promote innovation in batteries the Commission has taken a series of steps, including initiating projects within the framework of Horizon 2020 and establishing the Strategic Energy Technology Plan (ETIP).
Energy storage - the role of electricity (SWD(2017) 61 final)
Study: ASSET study on sectoral integration (February 2018)