Report: European utility industry not prepared for ‘vital’ energy storage shift

European power industry professionals are acutely aware of the "vital" role that energy storage will play in transforming the energy mix over the next 10 years, but only a quarter are confident that the industry is ready to implement it.

That was one of the key findings from this year’s POWER-GEN Industry Study, which surveyed more than 800 professionals within the power industry on how well equipped the sector is to embrace the low-carbon transition and emerging technologies.

The report found that 38% view energy storage as a “vital” concept within the next 10 years, but only 26% were “very confident” that the industry would be ready and able to embrace the technology. The report also revealed that more than half of the respondents are expecting a 4% increase in the amount of funds made available for research and development (R&D) – providing the European economy doesn’t shrink.

POWER-GEN’s conference director of Europe and renewable energy Nigel Blackaby said: “The Europe Confidence Index is the perfect barometer for industry professionals looking for tangible intelligence on the industry’s direction. As many would expect, energy storage and renewables remain top of the agenda, but the rise of topics such as cyber security and big data gives valuable insights on our direction of travel.”

As Blackaby noted, industry professionals no longer view big data as a long-term issue. With a host of tech companies such as IBM already expanding big data platforms, those surveyed now view it as a near-future implementation. This rise looks set to add to the concerns around cybersecurity – identified as a core business risk by the World Economic Council – which is expected to be a dominant industry theme for the next 20 years.

The survey was conducted during a year of “flat trading conditions”, the report noted, which saw companies adjust to low electricity demand. Despite this, the industry is gearing up for a change, with 60% believing that demand will increase by around 3%.

Investment into low-carbon generation is also expected to rise. Respondents felt that Germany would invest more into renewables than conventional sources by a score of 55% to 40%. The UK was also expected to boost renewable investment by 33% to 22%, according to the survey. However, the survey was conducted before the outcome of the European Union (EU) referendum, and this confidence may no longer remain.

Despite the predicted growth in both renewable investment and capacity demand, a lack of growth in the economy could soon place jobs at risk, the report noted.

Big battery boost

The report arrives just days after an £18.4m grid-scale battery system in Bedfordshire proved the technical and commercial viability of energy storage in Britain following an extensive two-year trial.

Distribution network operator UK Power Networks claimed that the fully-automated 6MW/10MWh 6MW ‘big battery’ can store enough electricity to power 6,000 homes for 1.5 hours at peak times.

Last month, a Policy Exchange report found that energy storage, alongside other emerging technologies such as demand response, could help establish a smarter, more flexible energy system that creates savings for the UK in the tune of £8bn by 2030.

Matt Mace

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