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OPINION

Unlocking Mideast renewable potential - role of energy storage

RIYADH, 9 days ago

In achieving the energy mix to meet sustainability goals, energy storage in various forms, will play an increasingly important role in the Middle East region, according to an industry expert.
 
The disruption of recent times has once again put a focus on the ability of businesses to adapt to change and be resilient. This is being applied to all business aspects, including supply chains. However, the same principles are drilling further down and into the fundamentals, namely power, said Natalya Makarochkina, the Senior Vice President of Secure Power Division at global energy management leader Schneider Electric.
 
As the effects of climate change are being increasingly felt, and emission reduction deadlines approach, to a backdrop of outages and constrained power supply, power resilience and energy storage have been shown to be vital in ensuring that renewable energy sources (RES) can be integrated into national grids and made suitable to power the digital economy across the region.
 
The application of digital technologies to energy, in the form of Electricity 4.0, has the potential to support growth and sustainability, while ensuring resilience. 
 
In the same manner as Industry 4.0 is seeing the digitalization of industry, Electricity 4.0 is the similar digitalization of electricity generation and distribution, stated Makarochkina.
 
Renewable progress
 
According to her, the adoption of RES has continued apace across the region. 
 
The non-profit group Global Energy Monitor reports specific states within the area have set targets for a fivefold increase in wind and solar by 2030. 
 
There are planned wind and solar projects by some of the major renewable investors in the region which outstrip plans for new gas-fired power plants four-fold. The plans will add 73.4GW to the 12GW of utility-scale solar and wind power currently in operation, with 60.9GW of the new capacity to come online before 2030, she stated.
 
The Mena Power Projects Forum last year reported that overall investment in the power sector in the region is set to exceed a total of $250 billion, making it the highest among all energy sectors. And of these, nearly $60 billion worth of power projects are being developed in Saudi Arabia. 
 
In a recent report, UAE has announced plans to triple its RES and invest up to $54 billion over the next seven years to meet growing energy demands. Similarly, Egypt has $37 billion worth of power projects in progress.
 
"While this is welcome news for emission reduction and energy availability, it also brings with it major challenges. RES generation is characterized by variability due to the fluctuating intensity of the sun and wind, which impacts generative power," observed Makarochkina.
 
To effectively address this and enable the integration of intermittent renewable energy, grid-scale energy storage is a critical component of the required infrastructure. By implementing grid-scale energy storage solutions, it becomes possible to support the development of resilient-grids capable of accommodating 70% or more RES, as demonstrated by MIT research.
 
Long duration storage
 
Long-duration energy storage (LDES) is a major technical challenge, where requirements could be for hours, days, weeks or even months. 
 
Pumped-storage hydroelectricity is the most widely used storage technology and holds considerable untapped potential in several regions. However, batteries remain the most scalable type of grid-scale storage due to their packaging, modular deployment, and easy availability, and the market has seen strong growth in recent years according to the IEA. 
 
Other storage technologies include compressed air and gravity storage, but they play a comparatively small role in current power systems.
 
Additionally, the emerging technology of hydrogen, according to the IEA holds promise for the seasonal storage of renewable energy. 
 
Microgrid support
 
Although not providing LDES, microgrids offer short term storage capacity that can help in terms of smoothing peak grid usage, leveraging technologies such as intelligent UPS estates, as well as with the overall variability concerns, said Makarochkina. 
 
This is seen as a benefit where proximity to the RES generation may be an issue, and for more rural deployments. These combined capabilities also provide resilience for the energy supply, ensuring that even when entire generation sites are offline for any reason, whether due to atmospheric conditions or disruption, power can flow and meet immediate needs until other measures can be brought to bear, stated the expert.
 
Broader facilities
 
Makarochkina pointed out that with many nations moving towards implementing smart national grids to meet future needs, microgrids are seen as a significant factor. 
 
Through new management and orchestration systems, large energy users can be rewarded for their storage and resupply capabilities, as well as demand side management to support peak usage across the grid, she said.
 
"The ability to quickly implement such measures through economies of scale, reference designs and vendors’ relentless pursuit of efficiency, combined with facilities such as product environmental profiles (PEP), mean that organizations can confidently build out capacity, while supporting wider efforts to decarbonize, and move the entire region closer to a net zero energy future," she noted.
 
"Schneider Electric offers a range of solutions in this area, including many variations on solar, to further provide options for many scenarios," she added.
 
Digital innovation in power
 
According to her, Schneider Electric is contributing to these efforts through the concept of Electricity 4.0. The digitalization of energy is a key factor ensuring the benefits of digital technologies can support smart grids, microgrid integration, RES adoption, and the path to net zero.
 
Digital innovation brings greater visibility in energy generation and distribution, eliminating waste and driving efficiency, said Makarochkina, adding digital technology such as metering and monitoring enables everyone to see how they are using the energy. 
 
"In addition, smart devices, apps, analytics, and software go a step further and enable us to deploy smart energy more efficiently, meaning we can address a huge amount of untapped potential for energy savings. Providing businesses and service providers with the solutions and services to fully orchestrate digital energy management means that everyone can plug in and contribute to a more renewable-powered, sustainable energy future," she stated.
 
On the likely solution, Makarochkina said renewable energy sources are likely to form a significant proportion of energy generation in the future, as part of a solution to achieve a decarbonized, net zero goal. 
 
Grid-scale energy storage and the resilience that it provides will be critical in facilitating those renewable energy sources in the digitalized smart grids of the future.
 
Large energy consumers, leveraging digitalized energy systems can be a part of that solution, supporting change, increasing transparency, and underpinning the development of digital economies that are sustainable and accessible to all, she added.



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