The COVID-19 crisis has dealt a severe blow to our personal lives and to the economic situation.

The challenges we face are enormous, both in terms of public health and the economy. According to Science magazine, we are facing two overlapping crises: the COVID-19 crisis and the climate emergency. The only good news is that the decline in economic activity is leading to a decrease in air pollution levels and greenhouse gas emissions. 

But climate change is there, and it is not going to go away.

The correct reading is not that the inactivity of the industry is the lever to overcome climate change. On the contrary, the correct interpretation is that industrial and technological development must accompany climate change.

Leading experts say this is a window of opportunity to accelerate the energy transition through disruptive technologies that will make nations more competitive. It is the only formula to emerge stronger from this situation.

In this sense, the world economic forum recommends using part of the crisis recovery funds to promote capacities in clean energy, energy storage, electric vehicles and new business models based on digitalization. These are four essential levers to be considered for economic and sustainable recovery.

Without a doubt, the new energy storage technologies in which CIC energiGUNE is a valuable player will be crucial in this new scenario.

Fatih Birol, Director of the International Energy Agency, explains this in a recently published article; Mr. Birol points out that the crisis of 2008 helped those countries that did bet on the development of technologies related to solar photovoltaic and wind energy to gain competitiveness and market share. Today, both technologies are available at an affordable price. 

Learning from these lessons from the previous 2008 crisis, Birol points to where the following technology development efforts should be focused: towards energy storage

This is the aim of the European Battery Alliance, of which CIC energiGUNE is a member and which is working together with the large multinationals and European players to build a robust European battery industry by 2025.

In this new scenario, all storage technologies will have their niches of opportunity. We are talking about solid-state batteries for electric vehicles, cheap, safe, and with high energy densities. The researcher who conceptualized this type of cell with solid polymer electrolyte is Professor Michel Armand, one of the most prestigious researchers in the world according to the Clarivariate 2019.

Sodium battery

This type of battery will be key to the European automotive industry. Companies like Volkswagen plan to generate 70 models of electric vehicles by 2028.

lso, in the field of stationary storage, sodium solid-state batteries could be up to 20% cheaper than current lithium technologies. Sodium-based batteries are an essential alternative in terms of cost, accessibility to raw materials, recyclability, and sustainability.

An important boost to the penetration of renewables would be new technologies of more sustainable redox flow batteries thanks to environmentally friendly electrolytes. This type of battery is being worked on in the Higreew project led by CIC energiGUNE and which includes the participation of large companies in the renewables market such as Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy and Gamesa Electric.

Europe has set a high standard in terms of renewable generation and energy efficiency. The so-called Winter Package already sets binding targets for EU countries for 2030. These must be, among others, 32% of renewable energy consumption over total energy consumption and a 32.5% improvement in energy efficiency.

In this sense, the European Commission´s Green Deal agenda will evaluate the final national energy and climate plans in 2020. Spain has already prepared a draft of its PNIEC plan with even more ambitious targets: 42% of total final energy consumption from renewable sources, 74% from electricity generation and 39.5% in energy efficiency.

Thermal energy storage

To achieve these ambitious targets, other forms of storage, such as large-scale thermal storage, must be deployed on a massive basis. This type of solutions are mainly dominated by concentrated solar power generation where companies like SENER are technology and market leaders and can also be hybridized with other storage technologies.

In the field of energy efficiency, thermal storage also plays a vital role in heat recovery from industrial processes at reasonable prices. Thermal storage will be crucial to energy efficiency in the thermal management of electrical and electronic equipment and heat electrification.

Within this new energy transition scheme, we cannot forget about hydrogen as a vector for industrial development and competitiveness. Some keys are the production of green hydrogen from renewable energy and the use of this vector in heavy transport where lithium-ion batteries are not yet competitive.

 

Hydrone storage

We are facing an enormous challenge; the challenge of emerging stronger from a double crisis, the climate crisis, and the COVID-19 crisis. The experts agree that to recover employment and competitiveness, we must focus efforts on critical technological developments such as energy storage. To this end, it will be imperative to strengthen support policies and instruments for countries and regions, the decisive commitment of the business sector, and the tireless work of researchers and technologists in developing disruptive solutions that are easy to implement and at reasonable costs.

We have the ingredients, let us work towards our common goal.

 

 Author: Nuria Gisbert, General Manager of CIC energiGUNE;  Member of the group of experts of the parliament of the Basque Energy Pact and member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Basque Council of Science, Technology and Innovation of the Basque Country.