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Energy storage

Energy storage can help increase the EU's security of supply and decarbonisation.

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.

Storage and security of supply

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.

The “Study on energy storage – Contribution to the security of the electricity supply in Europe”, published by the Commission in May 2020, found that

  • the main energy storage reservoir in the EU is currently, and by, far pumped hydro storage. As their prices plummet, new batteries projects are rising
  • lithium-ion batteries represent most of electrochemical storage projects. The recycling of such systems should be strongly taken into consideration, as well as their effective lifetime
  • in the EU, the segment of operational electrochemical facilities is led by UK and Germany
  • behind-the-meter storage is still growing. It is quite heterogeneous, depending on local markets and countries: as a new market, it is still driven by political aspects and/or subsidies

Storage technologies

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 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.

EU initiatives on batteries

With electrification set to be one of the main pathways to decarbonisation, batteries as electricity storage devices will become one of the key enablers of a low-carbon economy.

Given their capacity to integrate more renewables into our energy systems and their ability to green the industry and transport sectors, with spill over effects on the electrification on many additional sectors, global demand for batteries is expected to grow very rapidly over the coming years, making the market for batteries a very strategic one.

To build up a viable manufacturing sector in Europe and consolidate technological and industrial leadership, the European Commission has identified batteries as a strategic value chain where the EU must step up investment and innovation to strengthen the industrial policy strategy.

The comprehensive governance framework of the energy union and the strategic action plan on batteries (annex 2 to the Communication Europe on the move COM(2018)293), were important steps to help build a globally integrated, sustainable and competitive industrial base on batteries. The progress made was evaluated and summarised in the Commission report in 2019 (COM(2019) 176 final).

Batteries Europe

Batteries Europe, launched in 2019, is the European technology and innovation platform of the European Battery Alliance (EBA), run jointly by the European Commission and stakeholders in the battery industry.

The Batteries Europe platform includes a wide representation of stakeholders and has a well-defined governance structure, including the six thematic working groups, which are building on the previous work from the SET Plan action 7 on batteries.

SET Plan action 7

The Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET Plan) is a central pillar of the EU’s energy and climate policy. It has ten key actions and SET Plan action 7 focuses on competitiveness in the global battery sector.

The SET Plan research priorities on batteries were published in November 2017 and include several research and innovation activities, as detailed in the implementation plan, aiming to make the battery value chain in Europe more competitive.

Simultaneously, a number of Member States are teaming up for important projects of common European Interest (IPCEI) on batteries research and innovation.

Interregional partnership on advanced regional materials also contributes to the achievement of SET Plan objectives for batteries.

Bridge projects on batteries

Bridge is a European Commission initiative that unites smart grids, energy storage, islands and digitalisation projects funded under Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe.

In 2018, the group published a report based on input from 15 projects, most involved in battery integration in the energy system. Amongst the main findings, the report highlights that

  • most of the demonstration sites involving batteries are located in Southern Europe and on islands (where batteries make the highest economic sense)
  • different battery technologies are tested within H2020 projects, even if lithium-ion batteries were the most widely used
  • batteries are tested at all levels of energy system for different use cases
  • new market designs and business models are being elaborated by the H2020 projects in order to make these new services economically viable
  • batteries from electric vehicles are involved in the use of second-life batteries (from EVs and smart charging and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) applications)

The BATSTORM project (2016-2018)

This Horizon 2020 funded project was set up in 2016 to identify and support research and development needs in the area of battery-based energy storage.

The final report explains the context for the fast development of battery-based stationary storage, battery technologies used in stationary storage, their strength and weaknesses, different use for battery storage throughout the energy system, main research priorities and accompanying measures to enable storage.

In addition, it analyses battery related policies in selected Member States and suggests a non-exclusive list of good practices and practices to avoid.