MEPs push for uniform EU concept on energy storage

"The Green Deal places a strong emphasis on the electrification of all sectors, but in doing so we must not lose sight of the fact that, even from today's perspective, we need to build up huge storage capacities. For this we need a regulatory framework," MEP Claudia Gamon told EURACTIV. [EU Multimedia Center]

The energy network of the future will be equipped with a wide variety of storage methods,  although constructing storage facilities, in itself, comes with many obstacles. The lack of a uniform concept on the matter is something which some MEPs want to change. EURACTIV Germany reports.

The European Parliament wants the European Commission to develop an EU concept for energy storage in a resolution that will be voted on Friday (10 July).

In the resolution drafted by Austrian MEP Claudia Gamon (Renew), MEPs suggest setting up a task force within the Commission to evaluate the carbon footprint and cost-effectiveness of different types of energy storage.

“The Green Deal places a strong emphasis on the electrification of all sectors, but in doing so we must not lose sight of the fact that, even from today’s perspective, we need to build up huge storage capacities. For this we need a regulatory framework,” Gamon told EURACTIV Germany.

The Commission assumes that, to achieve climate neutrality, the proportion of final electricity consumption would have to increase from today’s 25% share to about 50% by 2050.

Given that a large part of this is to come from renewable energies and the electricity grid has to absorb stronger fluctuations, the need for storage capacities could increase sixfold.

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Gamon says that her initiative aims to bring together the loose threads in various EU directives on energy storage into a uniform concept.

The strategy for the integration of energy systems, which was presented on Wednesday (8 July), provides a good starting point for this. In it, the Commission sets out for the first time how energy legislation will be adapted in the coming years to link gas and electricity markets with the industry, buildings and transport sectors – so-called sector coupling.

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Pumped storage, usually in the form of large pumped storage power plants between two lakes, currently accounts for around 90% of energy storage in the European electricity grid. There are promising alternatives, such as power-to-x systems, batteries and heat storage, but their potential is far from exhausted.

“What would help enormously would be the removal of numerous hurdles that still exist for many types of storage,” said Gamon, who cited double taxation of storage through grid fees and energy taxes as an example.

Gamon added that when the Commission revises its energy tax directive next year, it will have to distinguish between final usage and storage or transformation.

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However, there are other issues that need to be resolved.

The Lithium-ion battery which is the bulk of electrochemical storage is one of them. Recycling this type of battery is considered unprofitable, meaning there are currently no closed cycles and the vast majority of batteries are purchased from Asia.

Almost half of all portable batteries placed on the market are not returned to the cycle, according to a study by the Öko-Institut in 2018. Nor is there an adequate legal framework for the reuse of car batteries, which could theoretically be used to store energy in private households.

Therefore, “a specific recycling target for lithium-ion batteries” should be considered in the upcoming revision of the Batteries Directive, according to the report.

Parliament wants a cost-benefit analysis for low CO2 gases

There is a need for action not only with regard to the existing obstacles but also with regard to the possible support instruments for storage facilities. District heating networks, for example, should be able to benefit from the Connecting Europe Facility in the future.

However, also in the EU state aid rules, the reform of which is subject to public consultation until the middle of the month, MEPs are requesting that storage facilities must be given more space. The ongoing revision of the so-called TEN-E directive is likely to be even more important.

This will decide which trans-European energy networks are to be supported with billions of euros in funding. In the future, TEN-E must also allow the funding of storage facilities, according to the resolution. However, this is not necessarily the case, as most storage facilities do not have a cross-border structure and are, therefore, not entitled to TEN-E funding.

The same applies to storage facilities in the European gas network, which must be converted for low-carbon or even carbon-free gases such as hydrogen. According to the Parliament’s wishes, the Commission should examine the extent to which this extensive conversion is worthwhile at all in a cost-benefit analysis and an availability study.

However, while green gas will play an important role in the future energy network, it is not a miracle cure, according to MEP Gamon. “Hydrogen alone will not solve the problems of decarbonization. That’s why we have to rely on a variety of technologies,” she said.

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[Edited by Benjamin Fox]

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