energy and power

Energy storage needs greater innovation say Europe and Africa commissioners

Kadri Simson and Amani Abou-Zeid agree energy storage must unlock more innovation

Two energy commissioners from different continents today agreed that there needs to be greater innovation in energy storage.

EC Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson was sharing a stage with Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy at the African Union Commission, during the IRENA Innovation Summit in Bonn, Germany.

Earlier this year, Abou-Zeid welcomed Simson to her home country of Egypt to discuss energy security. Today in Bonn, the two women were asked which single area of the energy transition was still lacking in innovation: both answered storage.

Abou-Zeid – who used to be Director of the Africa Natural Resource Center – said storage “needs to be less disruptive to our minerals, much more efficient, and smaller in size.”

Simson agreed. “We see big issues when we cannot store wind and solar. We need lots of innovation in the storage sector.”

Both also said that the energy sector needs to “get out of our comfort zone”. Simson said Europe needed more home-grown renewables, and this meant “we need to grant more permits – permitting needs innovation”.

“We don’t want to replace one dependency on Russian gas with another dependency on another third party for technology.”

Earlier, Abou-Zeid had outlined the challenges and opportunities of Africa’s energy transition.

While she stated that that more than half the continent still has no access to electricity, she added: “Africa adopts new technology faster than any other region in the world”.

This, she said, allows it to “bypass and make a jump” over some energy technologies and methodologies in the ‘developed’ world.

“We have things happening in Africa with green hydrogen and sustainable aviation fuel – we adopt energy technology very quickly.”

However, she was adamant that the value chains that would be built around these and other energy innovations “are developed locally and used locally to green our economies”.

“Our continent has to grow – but it has to grow in ways compatible with the climate and sustainability.”

She said to deliver the value chains that were needed, “the whole energy ecosystem has to change”.

“None of this happens without finance models and we need finance models for more than just energy generation. People focus on energy generation but not on transmission: not on the ‘last mile’.

“Nor on digitalisation: digitalisation is vital.” She said the coronavirus pandemic unlocked huge leaps in digital technologies: “The climate crisis is a catalyst for all of us to get out of our comfort zones.”

And Abou-Zeid said the energy sector globally needed to “look to the future”.

“Most regulations about energy are regulations of the past. We cannot still use the ‘old ways’: they will not help us make the shift to the future.”

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