Energy storage to supply on-demand is becoming more important with regard to the trend towards photovoltaic and wind power. Which providers of storage solutions will establish themselves, and will there be a so-called storage market in the future? Possible economic effects, effects on society in general, as well as environmental issues were the focus of this study commissioned by the Austrian Parliament.
Renewable electricity generation, such as wind power or photovoltaics, depends on the time of day or year. To complicate things, use profiles – i.e., the need for energy over a day or a season – often do not correspond to production profiles. Due to the further expansion of renewable generation capacity, the spatial distance between generation and consumption of electrical energy is also an infrastructural challenge for decarbonisation. Essential elements in solving this challenge are storage technologies that store temporary or regional energy surpluses and provide them when needed. Therefore, several methods for storing electrical energy range from hydraulic pumped storage units to flywheels and electrochemical storage systems (batteries).
From a security of supply point of view, storage facilities are only one option among many other flexibility options (e.g., load shifting on the consumer side). In addition, storage facilities, which are always associated with conversion losses, are usually the economically most expensive option for integrating fluctuating generation plants. The economic operation of new storage facilities is, therefore, currently only possible to a limited extent. This is usually only possible if storage facilities are in a position to offer other essential system services (e.g., frequency maintenance through control and reserve power).
This study for the Austrian Parliament focused primarily on environmental issues, economic and social aspects, and less on technical and business perspectives. For example, the various electricity storage technologies provide multiple opportunities for a decentralized, decarbonized electricity infrastructure. Still, they may also pose challenges due to resource use in producing, disposing, and/or reusing these electrochemical storage systems.
Thus, their promotion, use, and regulation harbours political trade-offs. Also, we must raise questions about the safety of handling stationary battery systems in private households. There may be conflicts concerning landscape use, nature conservation, and energy security in the case of new or expanded pumped hydro storage power plants.
This study provides a differentiated picture of the future of electrical storage systems. This is due, in particular, to the great diversity of the technologies and forms of application summarised by this term, the consequences and possible applications of which can be assessed very differently. In addition, it has been shown that electrical storage systems are only one of several options for dealing with the challenges of the gradually developing decarbonized energy system. These two insights show that electrical storage systems will only be one element of future technological and organisational development. However, this first but comprehensive overview indicates that there is a significant and manifold need for research at the national as well as international levels to coordinate all elements optimally. This is not only a matter of technical development but also of social, legal, economic, and ecological assessments. In short: an inter-and transdisciplinary task.
The project was carried out by the "ARGE ITA-AIT Parlament" in the course of the framework contract with the Austrian Parliament.
11/2018 - 06/2019