The cost of energy is increasing due to a number of linked but separate issues. Security of energy supply is strategically critical in the face of increasing international prices, supply issues and geopolitical unrest. Energy supply depends on –
i) the demand for energy services, and
ii) how that demand is delivered.
Energy service demand is driven primarily by economic activity and low energy prices can serve to remove barriers to economic activity. Ireland has excellent renewable energy resources and unlocking these potential resources requires energy storage.
Renewable energy sources play a part in avoiding overreliance on imported fossil fuels. Energy diversification has been part of EU law since EU directive 2001/77/EC which was superseded by 2009/28/EC in 2009.  This directive is commonly known as the ‘Renewables Directive’ but covers a number of areas which are interrelated to achieve less dependence on fossil energy as well as renewable alternatives. The aims of this directive are paraphrased to the 20-20-20 targets. Essentially these aim to reduce overall EU greenhouse gas emissions to at least 20% below 1990 levels by the year 2020, achieve a 20% reduction in primary energy use by promoting energy efficiency and to achieve 20% of EU energy consumption to be sourced from renewable resources by 2020. Within the directive Article 16 specifically directs that “Member states shall take the appropriate steps to develop transmission and distribution grid infrastructure, intelligent networks, storage facilities and the electricity system, in order to allow the secure operation of the electricity system as it accommodates the further development of electricity production from renewable energy sources, including interconnection between Member States and between Member States and third countries”. The onus is on individual member states to determine the most appropriate implementation of this directive.
The focus of the SPIRE Project is to minimise the barriers to the deployment of renewable energy by providing viable answers to energy storage challenges within a compact timeframe.
Renewable energy sources have at their core, the capacity to generate energy with little or no fuel costs. This removes the price volatility of fuel sources and global economic effects, once the initial capital cost of plants has been committed to. Facilitating the integration of renewable sources of energy through energy storage will further enhance the value of renewable energy to an economy. The market price of electricity is determined by the most expensive power station still needed to satisfy the demand for electricity, known as the ‘merit order’. It has been shown from one of the most developed wind integrating economies, Germany, that the integration of renewable energy capacity onto the grid allows the decommissioning of older, less efficient and more polluting fossil fuel plants and overall contributes to a lowered wholesale price of electricity. The German Ministry for the Environment, Nature conservation and nuclear safety showed that over 2005 – 2008 the availability of energy from renewable sources decreased the price of electricity produced via the spot market by between €2.5 and €7.8 per MWh.
The project intends to build upon three technological strands associated with small scale energy storage (demand side), medium scale energy storage (demand/supply side auto-producers) and large scale energy storage (utility/supply side) technology and market integration.
Each technology strand will engage in cross-cutting themes in demonstrating Economic (market benefits, electricity prices, technology development etc), Environmental (wind energy forecasting, emissions reduction, fossil fuel imports reduction, environmental impacts etc), Cooperation (Single Electricity Market, technology development, new business opportunities) and Social (reduced energy costs, reduced environmental impacts, new employment opportunities, skills development) impacts that will see this region becoming a centre for excellence in energy storage development and exploitation. Each technology strand will therefore engage in a technology feasibility phase, a technology evaluation phase and a synopsis and dissemination phase in conjunction with the four impacts themes. Thus having demonstrated that energy storage is a necessary component of a potentially wind-led energy network, the scales of energy storage must be evaluated.