Roundtable on "Energy Storage Technology: Is the CEE Region Ready?"

Roundtable on "Energy Storage Technology: Is the CEE Region Ready?"

Central European University, the Energy Research Group, and the Jean Monet Chair for Energy Innovation Strategies on March 6th has organized the roundtable discussion “Energy Storage Technology: Is the CEE Region Ready?”. According to the moderator of the discussion professor Michael LaBelle, “We look at Western Europe countries, US, Australia where energy storage ecosystems are well developed, but the focus of this discussion is how we bring in new energy storage technologies in the CEE region with robust electrical and gas systems”. To answer this question, the roundtable brought together the key leaders at the forefront of the energy storage business: Jan Namyslo (Sales Leader Fluence Energy, Germany), Csaba Kovács (Partner, KPMG, Energy and Utilities), Tamás Bóday (CTO, HeatVenters Start-up) and István Slezsák (Grid Development Associate, ELMŰ).

First of all, Jan Namyslo presented “Fluence” – a joint venture in energy storage of Siemens and AES (USA). Siemens was interested in a partnership with AES because they have high expectations on a market based on energy storage. As Jan Namyslo puts it, “Energy storage will change dramatically the way of consuming and producing energy”. AES is famous as a company that started working in the area of energy storage already 10 years ago. The two companies together make up installed power of 500 MW. They focus on Europe, Northern, Southern America and even Asian market. Therefore, even though the “Fluence” was established just 8 weeks ago, it is not anymore a small start-up, but a large company with installed power worldwide. The ambitions of the joint venture are best illustrated by the largest project of the company – retransformation of the coal power plant into 100 MW capacity energy storage system. Furthermore, Jan Namyslo highlighted that there is a real business case for energy storage in central Europe too. One can easily earn 100.000 EUR per year for operating 1MW storage system and it can be scaled up to 50 MW. Especially attractive business case is regarding lithium-ion batteries – one of the most mature energy storage technologies so far.

The discussion that followed after the keynote speech touched upon a wide variety of topics from home-scale energy storage, electric cars to availability of resources and power to gas technology as well as regulation. With regard to home-scale batteries the case of Germany was brought up, since there is a large market for residential storage due to the significant development in the photovoltaic (PV) sector. Considering electric vehicles, it was highlighted that the number of such cars is growing in Hungary (today there are around 5000 electric cars in the country) and they have the potential to inject energy to the grid as well as help to solve voltage problems in the power system. Furthermore, debating the issue of regulation of the energy storage, all speakers pointed out that the legal environment in CEE and in Hungary is not supportive enough. According to Jan Namyslo, storage systems are treated like any other conventional consumer, or producer. Thus, it is rather difficult to run arbitrage business in Europe because every time one is going to charge or discharge the storage, the taxes will have to be paid as it is the case even in Germany with the “Erneuerbare Energien” fee. Therefore, “Germany, France, UK, Italy are lobbying in the European Commission regarding incentives for storage in the regulation system”, Csaba Kovács pointed out. Nevertheless, despite the fact that the incentive system is not perfect for energy storage in Hungary, one can be more optimistic when looking at Japan, USA, UK, France, Italy, Germany. Besides, once the clean energy package of the EC will be passed (by 2020), the legislative environment will be much more supportive in Europe. All in all, the technology is developing on its own and even though the regulation is missing, the technological development is far ahead.

With regard to availability of resources’ influence on investment security, in a short-term perspective there might be a shortage of resources, but like in the oil business, from the long-term perspective, there will be significant investments in the sector, which will result in the discovery of more resources and consequently the prices will drop too. The prices for batteries is a good example as it has decreased by 75 % in the last 4-5 years. However, considering the power to gas (P2G) technology, the difficulties with regard to distribution system of gas has to be overcome if the full potential of this technology is to be unveiled.

In conclusion, the future of the energy storage was discussed and it was pointed out that especially in Hungary energy prices are highly political, therefore the essential question is, who has an interest to invest in energy storage. Lastly, it was highlighted that we all should be interested in energy storage technologies because of the climate change and rapidly increasing temperatures that require further development of the renewable energy sources.