Patrick Clerens – EASE: Energy storage will support the energy transition across Europe

Interview of Mr. Patrick Clerens, Secretary General, European Association for the Storage of Energy, published in  Athens News Agency – Macedonian Press Agency (ANA-MPA) & Ecopress.gr

What is EASE and what are its activities? What is EASE raison d’etre? How can EASE contribute to the deployment of energy storage systems and technologies at large? What is EASE future vision?

EASE – The European Association for Storage of Energy is the leading member-supported association, representing organizations active across the entire energy storage value chain.  EASE promotes the deployment of energy storage to support the cost-effective transition to a resilient, low-carbon, and secure energy system.

EASE is composed of around 40 members representing utilities, technology suppliers, research institutes, distribution system operators, and transmission system operators. The members bring together significant expertise across all major storage technologies and applications. This allows us to generate new ideas and policy recommendations that are essential to build a regulatory framework that is supportive of storage.

Supporting the development and deployment of innovative storage technologies, and advocating for a fair and future-oriented market design that creates a level playing field for energy storage, is and will continue to be EASE’s priority. In light of the changes that the Clean Energy Package and the European Green Deal bring in terms of recognition of storage, the prospects for the storage industry in the coming year are very positive. We will continue to support the storage sector by facilitating information-sharing on energy storage technologies and applications, both through the EASE internal Working Groups and Task Forces and through our Energy Storage Global Conference in October 2020.

Given the context of “The European Green Deal” and European Union’s overall energy transition framework, how do you consider energy storage, its role and prospects in European energy landscape? Is there a specific role for consumers or communities to benefit from energy storage technologies in energy transition to sustainable energy generation?

EASE is very supportive of the European Commission’s vision as laid out in the European Green Deal. We believe this policy is a huge step forward for Europe, and we are eager to see it succeed. It is very exciting to contribute to the achievement of the announced EU aims of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in 2050, as well as an upwards revision of the 2030 targets.

An increased deployment of energy storage solutions will be paramount to reaching these goals, as it allows for a more cost-effective energy transition by making high shares of variable renewables easier to integrate (vRES). In keeping with the EU’s role as a global leader in clean energy solutions, it is vital that investment in energy storage research, demonstration and deployment continues to be a priority.

Energy storage will support the energy transition across Europe. This is particularly true in the case of industrial, coal and energy intensive regions and on islands.

For these reasons, energy storage will be key to the different actions that will be taken in the next two years to implement the European Green Deal, from the Just Transition Mechanism proposal to the smart sector integration strategy. It is our belief that EU policymakers will prioritize technology-neutrality, taking into account the contribution of all different energy storage technologies rather than choosing winners and losers.

The energy transition will not occur without consumers and energy communities, which could also be pure “energy storage” energy communities, without any generation assets. With the agreed Clean Energy Package, consumers will progressively play a more active role. The consumer can participate in electricity markets (sometimes via an aggregator), consume the own generated electricity without any need to pay taxes and even ask to have the exposure to the wholesale electricity price variations. This means that consumers in the future will have an economic added value to have bigger storage devices, balancing the heat pump, solar panels, the electric vehicle… as well as playing on electricity markets by taking advantage of arbitrage as well as system services possibilities. Thus, energy storage links sustainable energy generation with economic added value for consumers.

In your opinion, what would be the major challenges for realizing the full potential of energy storage technologies in various applications in European energy markets?

With the approval of the Clean Energy Package, attention has now turned to other policy proposals, particularly the long-term decarbonisation strategy of the European Union. The von der Leyen Commission has put forward a European Green Deal which simultaneously sets out a strategy to tackle climate change while guaranteeing the prosperity and competitiveness of the EU and its citizens. Under the Commission’s proposed Climate Law, to be put forward in March 2020, the 2050 climate neutrality objective will become a binding target in legislation. Energy storage can play a key role in this initiative, as it is a prerequisite to integrating ever higher shares of renewables while supporting efficient grid operation and sector integration.

Many important policy initiatives are coming up that will have significant ramifications for the storage industry. The fast implementation of the Clean Energy Package, and ensuring a prominent place for energy storage in Green Deal legislation, are both essential in the immediate future. Other topics of interest to the sector are sustainability and eco-design for batteries, power-to-gas and the new Gas Decarbonisation Package, mobility, the role of storage in the building sector through the “smart readiness indicator”, and others.

It is imperative that we continue to engage with policymakers at all levels across Europe to ensure that they understand the complexity of the energy storage business case and the many different services that energy storage can provide – and should be remunerated for. Industry and policymakers must work together across a wide range of policy priorities to design smart and effective measures which can ensure that energy storage reaches the levels of deployment needed to achieve the 2030 and 2050 decarbonisation targets.

EASE organized a special workshop for energy storage systems on islands in Brussels last November. What were the general conclusions of the workshop?. What were the general conclusions of the workshop? As you may know, Greece has around 140 inhabited islands, just about 10% of all inhabited island in European union. In this respect, how do you consider the prospects for Greece and Greek companies to develop and deploy various energy storage and renewable energy technologies in island environment? Do you see potential for knowhow “spill-over” effects, i.e., commercial potential to utilize this knowledge from independent island energy systems  outside Greece?

Islands face unique challenges in terms of ensuring a secure and cost-effective energy supply and they have been particularly noteworthy as early pioneers in the use of renewables, and even in the deployment of storage projects. These projects not only highlight the vast range of storage technologies and applications, but underline some of the issues to be addressed when it comes to energy transition and deep decarbonisation.

Regardless of the individual character of each island, energy storage systems are mostly useful in ensuring the decarbonisation of island environments. During the Energy Storage on Islands Workshop, we learnt from cutting-edge storage projects from around the world, covering Bermuda, Greece, Italy, France, the Canary Islands, Orkney Islands (Scotland), and Taiwan, among others. Different storage solutions – li-ion batteries, pumped hydro storage, flywheels, supercapacitors, and hydrogen – have proven their capacity to cheaply provide a wide range of services, from cutting down on fossil fuel emissions when coupled with diesel generators, to drastically cutting renewables curtailment or provide key grid services such as spinning reserve to prevent load shedding and blackouts.

The workshop highlighted that a successful business case for storage must be underpinned by an appropriate market and regulatory framework. Discouraging regulatory environment, uncertainty in long-term investment and a lack of social acceptance are still, in most cases, the key barrier to deployment of energy storage projects.

For the moment, the most prominent business case is to replace part of the diesel generation present on islands with renewables coupled with energy storage. This has the advantage of avoiding the environmental danger of transporting oil to islands, while reducing the overall prices. Carbon neutrality is therefore the next challenge for these islands, and finding the optimal balance between renewables, energy storage and carbon-neutral fuels for backup power generation is paramount

Many islands have been early adopters of renewables, and have consequently seen some of the world’s first deployments of energy storage projects. These projects not only showcase the diversity of storage technologies and applications, but also serve as fascinating case studies for the broader energy system. Islands offer a peek into the future, setting an example for how interconnected systems could someday integrate very high shares of renewables while ensuring buy-in from local communities.

Eunice Energy Group and PPC are the Greek members in EASE. Would you like to convey a hint, how Greek energy companies would benefit most from EASE and its activities? How the novel Greek energy storage applications like Eunice Energy Group’s hybrid power plant in Tilos Island could be promoted in wider European context?

The  Greek members of EASE, Eunice Energy Group (EEG) and PPC, mainly benefited from the platform for new ideas and solutions in the energy storage sector that EASE provides for all its members. With EASE serving as a common, unified voice for storage in Europe, our members hold a competitive advantage by learning about future market design and business cases before their official publications and implementation.

Being an active player in EASE, Eunice Energy Group (EEG) not only gains expertise from the exchange with other actors involved in this sector, but also benefits from its involvement by showcasing its storage applications and promoting its innovative solutions to key shareholders in the storage sector across Europe. This visibility can also be gained through EU-funded projects.  Indeed, access to EU funding is another key advantage for EASE members.

Overall, the experience gained in the framework of the Tilos project will enable the participants to scale-up the provided solutions in order to meet the needs of larger energy systems. Also, this knowledge will be crucial for the definition of new market designs and business cases.

To conclude, the participation of Eunice Energy Group (EEG) in EASE activities represents a great added value and allows EASE and its members to learn from its experiences. We greatly appreciate the trust Eunice Energy Group (EEG) placed in EASE and we are looking forward to work together to make Europe a carbon neutral continent by 2050.