The European Union needs better energy storage to meet its energy targets and achieve its climate goals, according to a new information document from the European Court of Auditors. Auditors identify challenges for energy storage technologies, both for the network and for transportation. In terms of battery capacity, the EU lags behind its international competitors and, the text warns, may fall short of the goal of the European Battery Alliance by 2025.
Energy storage technologies offer a flexible response as a backup source for the imbalances caused by the increasing proportion of unmanageable renewables, such as solar and wind, in the electricity grid. Fuels produced from renewable sources, such as renewable electricity or hydrogen can help reduce emissions from transport. The improvement of energy storage technology can support the expansion of the fleet of vehicles that use these fuels. In summary, energy storage offers an important contribution to achieving EU’s energy and climate targets.
The main challenges facing the EU are the design of a strategy, the effective use of research and the establishment of a legislative framework
The information document of the European Court of Auditors describes the main challenges the EU faces in order to support the development and implementation of energy storage. According to the auditors there are three challenges: the design of a strategy, the efficient use of research and innovation and the establishment of a supportive legislative framework.
Phil Wynn Owen responsible for the report and member of the European Court of Auditors explained that energy storage “will play a key role in achieving a low carbon emissions energy system, mainly based on renewable energies”. In this sense, Wynn Owen has pointed out the progress of the EU adopting measures to develop “a strategic framework for energy storage”, although he warns: “there is a risk that the decisions taken to date do not suffice to achieve the EU´s strategic objectives in terms of clean energy. ”
The auditors note that the EU´s lithium-ion battery capacity development is lagging behind compared to other regions of the world
Therefore, the auditors point out that the current EU strategic framework might fail to live up to the energy transition challenges. They also note that the capacity to manufacture lithium-ion batteries (such as those used in electric vehicles) in the EU is lagging behind compared to other regions of the world leading the sector. And a bad positioning of the EU in the battery manufacturing market, can cause difficulties to generate a competitive advantage.
Meanwhile, the European Battery Alliance – established to create a competitive and sustainable battery manufacturing capacity in Europe – focuses, to a large extent, on existing technologies rather than on more advanced ones, and runs the risk of not achieving its ambitious goals.
Investment in energy storage
As stated in the text, the Commission acknowledges the importance of research and innovation in this area and therefore it has adopted measures to simplify the EU´s main research program: Horizon 2020. Between 2014 and the final stretch of 2018, 1.300 million euros of the program were granted to energy storage projects in the network or low emissions mobility. However, there is also a risk that the EU has not provided sufficient support for the implementation of innovative solutions in the market. In addition, the auditors assert that the complexity of EU funding for research can still be reduced and the participation of innovative companies can be increased.
To date, investors in storage solutions in the electricity network have faced obstacles, but new legislation should help overcome them, say the auditors. However, in terms of electric mobility, they warn that late and inconsistent implementation of charging infrastructures could delay the widespread adoption of electric vehicles.
The main challenges facing the EU in terms of supporting the development and implementation of energy storage technologies are: ensuring a consistent EU strategy; increase stakeholder support; reduce the complexity of funding for research; support research and innovation in energy storage technologies; implement those technologies; eliminate barriers for investors; and develop alternative fuel infrastructures.