To achieve EU’s climate and energy targets, decarbonise the energy sector and tackle the energy crisis (that started in autumn 2021), our energy system needs to undergo a profound transformation.
It should be characterised by improved energy efficiency and the massive and rapid deployment of variable renewable energy generation and will require more flexibility, understood as the energy system’s ability to adapt to changing needs of the grid and manage variability and uncertainty of demand and supply across all relevant timescales.
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. Flexibility solutions can adjust demand and supply by allowing excess electricity to be saved in large quantities over different time periods. In fact, models show an important relation between increasing renewable energy deployment and flexibility in the energy system.
Besides being an important flexibility solution, energy storage can reduce price fluctuations, lower electricity prices during peak times and empower consumers to adapt their energy consumption to prices and their needs. It can also facilitate the electrification of different economic sectors, notably buildings and transport. The uptake of electric vehicles can for example ensure balancing services to the electricity grid and power homes and thermal storage can contribute to energy system integration and to the decarbonisation of the heating and cooling sectors.
Guidance and recommendation on energy storage
The Commission published its first guiding documents on a definition and principles for energy storage in June 2016, followed by a staff working document in 2017 on the role of electricity in energy storage. These principles were subsequently reflected in the Clean energy for all Europeans package, adopted in 2019.
The main energy storage reservoir in the EU is by far pumped hydro storage, but batteries projects are rising, according to a study on energy storage published in May 2020. Besides batteries, a variety of new technologies to store electricity are developing at a fast pace and are increasingly becoming more market-competitive.
Competitiveness progress reports
Since 2020, the Commission publish yearly progress reports on the competitiveness of clean energy technologies that present the current and projected state of play for different clean and low-carbon energy technologies and solutions. The 2022 report includes dedicated sections on renewable hydrogen production through water electrolysis, and batteries, as they are crucial to succeed in the decarbonisation of energy and transport sectors.
On 14 March 2023, the Commission Recommendation Energy Storage – Underpinning a decarbonised and secure EU energy system was adopted. It addresses EU countries on the most important issues contributing to the broader deployment of energy storage. They should consider the double role of “consumer-producer” of storage by applying the EU electricity regulatory framework and by removing barriers, including avoiding double taxation and facilitating permitting procedures. It also provides recommendations to identify flexibility needs across different timescales and to ensure that system operators assess these needs when planning network developments.
On the financing side, it suggests increasing the long-term visibility and predictability of revenues to facilitate access to finance, for example by allowing storage operators to receive remuneration for certain services that they currently provide. EU countries should also consider instruments, such as competitive bidding procedures (in line with state aid rules) to achieve necessary flexibility and improvements in the design of certain parameters within capacity mechanisms.
The underlying Staff Working Document (SWD(2023) 57 final) looks at the role and application of storage in the energy transition, emphasising the need for flexibility, reliability and stability to achieve EU’s decarbonisation targets, providing some global outlook for storage deployment beyond the EU and concludes with an outlook of best practices.
The energy storage key facts and actions illustrate where the need for increased flexibility in the electricity system and what we are aiming to achieve by 2030 and 2050 respectively.
The storage potential of hydrogen is particularly beneficial for power grids, as it allows for renewable energy to be kept not only in large quantities but also for long periods of time.
Renewable hydrogen can help improve the flexibility of energy systems by balancing out supply and demand when there is either too much - or not enough - power being generated, helping to boost energy efficiency throughout the EU.
EU initiatives on batteries
Global demand for batteries is growing rapidly, 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 other sectors.
The comprehensive governance framework of the energy union and the strategic action plan on batteries (annex 2 to the Communication on sustainable mobility for Europe (COM/2018/293), were important steps to help build a globally integrated, sustainable and competitive industrial base on batteries in the EU. The progress made was evaluated and summarised in the Commission report on the Implementation of the Strategic Action Plan on Batteries (COM/2019/176).
Batteries Europe and batteries research
Batteries Europe, launched in 2019, is the European technology and innovation platform of the European Battery Alliance, 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 six thematic working groups, which are building on the previous work from the Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET Plan) action 7 on batteries, focused on competitiveness in the global battery sector.
Most of the new EU collaborative research projects on batteries are taking place under the BATT4EU Partnership, with €925 million earmarked for the current 7-year financial perspective. Simultaneously, a number of EU countries have teamed up for Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI) on batteries research and innovation.
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 on the battery topic, based on input from 15 projects, most involved in battery integration in the energy system.
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 BATSTORM reports and analysis are listed below.
- Summary: Battery storage to drive the power system transition (September 2018)
- Technical analysis on on-going project for battery based energy storage (August 2018)
- Policy analysis: Battery promoting policies in selected Member States (July 2018)
- Roadmap for R&I and accompanying measures 2018-2027 (April 2018)
- Costs and benefits for deployment scenarios of battery systems (March 2017)
- EnTEC study on energy storage (March 2023)
- SETIS – SET plan information system
- Energy storage (DG Research and Innovation)
- European Battery Alliance (DG GROW)
- Study: ASSET study on sectoral integration (February 2018)
- Commission Recommendation (C(2023) 1729 final)
- Accelerating clean energy innovation (COM(2016) 0763)
- Implementation of the strategic action plan on batteries: Building a strategic battery value chain in Europe (COM(2019) 176)
- Strategic Action Plan on Batteries – annex 2 to the Communication (COM(2018) 293)