Energy Storage Needs Political Backing

T. Constantinescu listening to an explanation of P2G projects

Sector integration, flexibility, level playing field – these were the buzzwords during the Energy Storage from March 14 to 16, 2017, both at the trade show exhibits and during the conferences. They made it unmistakably clear that the main issues were no longer questions in basic research, but energy policy, competition and marketing.

Stakeholders from the hydrogen and fuel cell industry needed some time to get used to the new environment, whereas it was normal for most attendees that the discussion revolved around the most recent draft of the renewable energy act coming from Brussels, the “winter package,” or that politics and business debate the latest developments in economic policy.

The around one dozen fuel cell and H2 businesses exhibiting in Düsseldorf had little experience with those issues, as their focus the past years had been research and development. But one could feel that for some, the situation was gradually changing. Despite a few research institutes, most organizations exhibiting in hall 8B were businesses which had already entered the market and were open to visions and new technologies.

It was the first time that Messe Düsseldorf had made an entire hall available for the event, and the move from the Congress Center Düsseldorf to the new location had been well received by most. Presentations and exhibits were in close vicinity to each other, but some visitors thought the conference area – which had been merely set apart by fabric dividers – looked a bit strange. Still, it served its purpose.

However, what looked less like a professionally set-up space was the one titled “Sector Integration,” which had been intended as the main point of contact for all those who wanted to learn about the entire process of renewable energy generation, from electrolysis to gas distribution. As unfortunate as it was for the businesses exhibiting there, the area looked cheap and, consequently, was frequented by few.

Apart from that, the mood was mainly a good one among attendees, whose number jumped to 4,200 – a considerable increase over previous years. The number of exhibitors also increased compared to 2016, to around 160, but there had been not as many as the organizers had originally expected (see New Location for Energy Storage Conference). Last year, the figure was 142, around 50 percent above the one of 2015.

Energy storage gets the short end

As a warm-up to the conferences, Thorsten Herdan, director of energy policy at the German federal economy ministry, invited attendees to play an active part in shaping the energy transformation, but stressed that it was not about replacing conventional technologies merely because that was what some investors intended to do with their money right now.

Tudor Constantinescu, principal adviser to the EC’s Director General for Energy, again repeated the objectives of the European Commission’s “winter package” and conceded that energy storage had received little attention at EU level. The issue he was most concerned with was how to sensibly decarbonize backup capacities. There was consensus among the stakeholders that the regulatory framework for energy storage was not up to date or even severely impeded further development.



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