The UN climate report: Energy storage can help curb climate change

The UN climate report Energy storage can help curb climate change
Energy production combined with battery energy storage is becoming increasingly important in net zero energy systems.

The United Nations climate report (IPCC AR6 WGIII), published on April 4th, focuses on options for curbing emissions and mitigating the impact of global warming. The document, compiled by hundreds of scientists across 65 countries, is the last of a trilogy comprising the IPCC’s sixth climate assessment. The first two reports cover the underlying science and impacts of climate on humans and ecosystems.

Hagal has taken a closer look at what the UN climate report says about the role of the energy system, energy storage, and second life batteries in the energy transition. Below is a summary with excerpts from the original report. 

Still room for optimism

The message is crystal clear. Time for climate action is long overdue. If we are to meet the goals set in the Paris agreement, global greenhouse gas emissions have to start decreasing within two years, and then almost halved by 2030. However, there is still room for optimism.

“We have the technology and know-how to halve emissions by 2030. Limiting global warming will require major transitions in the energy sector. This will involve a substantial reduction in fossil fuel use, widespread electrification, improved energy efficiency and use of alternative fuels.”

– To achieve this, we need a rapid transition of our energy system to handle a massive increase in the share of variable renewable energy sources. There is no secret that this requires a huge global effort and massive investments. Hagal is determined to be part of the solution, says Kjetil Thøgersen, researcher and Senior Data Scientist at Hagal. 

“Global warming cannot be limited to 2°C or 1.5°C without rapid and deep reductions in energy system CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions.”

The energy challenge  

Globally, we need to reduce energy consumption, increase energy efficiency and massively increase the renewable energy share. Even though the renewable share is growing, solar panels and wind still only account for around 2.2 % of the global energy produced in 2019. 

But there is also positive news. The cost of solar panels, wind power and batteries have declined rapidly over the last five years, allowing change to happen faster than in the past. Even so, as the renewable share continues to grow, new challenges arise. With the variability of energy production from solar and wind, decentralised energy production combined with battery energy storage will be crucial. 

– We are depending on a distributed storage capacity in the grid. Batteries bring flexibility, allowing us to store and distribute power when we need it. Locally stored power and production are key to a rapid transition to renewable energy and the power grid of tomorrow, Thøgersen explains. 

The role of battery energy storage 

Electrification is the most cost-effective way to decarbonise Europe’s economy. Direct and indirect electrification will make up 75% of Europe’s energy demand by 2050, but this can only happen if power grids are optimised and expanded in a timely manner.

The rapid response time of batteries makes them suitable for enhanced frequency regulation and voltage support, enabling the integration of variable renewables into electricity grids. More than 90% of the energy storage capacity added since 2015 is Battery Energy Storage Systems. 

– Tripling of the global energy storage capacity means around 2 kWh electricity storage capacity for every person on the planet. To keep global warming below 2 degrees, more than 100 billion dollars needs to be invested in energy storage per year. This can hardly be achieved without governmental support, Thøgersen emphasises. 

“If the integration of renewables is doubled from 2014 levels by 2030, the total capacity of global electricity storage could triple, reaching 11.89–15.27 TWh.” 

Need for a circular battery economy 

“There are growing concerns about critical minerals needed for batteries. Material and supply diversification strategies, energy and material efficiency improvements, and circular material flows can reduce the environmental footprint and material supply risks for battery production.”

“Reuse of Lithium-Ion batteries (LIBs) used in electrical vehicles for stationary energy applications can help in reducing the demand for LIBs. However, the main challenges are the difficulty in accessing the information on the health of batteries to be recycled and technical problems in remanufacturing the batteries for their second life.“

– The scenario with increased implementation of solar and wind energy, in combination with battery energy storage, is not compatible with the future material availability. We have to make sure every used EV battery is put to work in stationary energy storage applications. That is why Hagal is propelling large-scale deployment of used batteries with our technology and LifeCycle Hub, Thøgersen explains. 

Read the whole report.

Kjetil Thøgersen is Senior Data Scientist at Hagal. He is also a researcher at the Njord Centre, Department of Physics at the University of Oslo.

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