With the anticipated strong growth in the production of renewable energy from solar and wind, the share of electricity in the energy system will increase sharply. Some of the energy consumption within the energy system can be met by electricity, but not all: high-temperature heat, heavy transport and raw materials are expected to be dependent on liquid or gaseous fuels for a longer period of time. These functions can be fulfilled by converting biomass or electricity into fuels and raw materials, for example via green gas or hydrogen.
A strong increase in the amount of sustainable electricity will make demands on the capacity of the electricity grid, first locally, but later also nationally and internationally. Conversion to gaseous or liquid fuels can relieve the burden on the electricity grid. In addition to conversion losses, there is a cost advantage because transporting molecules is, in many cases, cheaper than transporting electrons.
The fluctuating nature of renewable energy from solar and wind will also increase the need for flexibility in the energy system. The increasing fluctuations in the supply of and demand for electricity will be partly offset by the import and export of electricity, and by shifts in the demand for electricity ('demand response'). There are certinaly also industry opportunities, for example through the use of conversion techniques such as Power-to-Gas, Power-to-Heat or Power-to-Ammonia. Energy storage will also meet part of the flexibility demand; this can be electricity storage (before or after the meter), heat storage and integrated conversion and storage of fuel and raw materials.
ECN part of TNO develops, demonstrates and implements technology for converting electricity into hydrogen (electrolysis), for example, as well as various technologies for storing energy, also in the context of the integration of large-scale electricity production by offshore wind and solar meadows.
ECN part of TNO, as part of the Voltachem partnership, is building a leading open innovation research infrastructure for the development of electrolysis and electrochemistry: The Faraday laboratory for electrochemistry aims to reduce the production costs of hydrogen, extend the life span of electrolysers and develop new electrochemical separation and conversion technology.
Power storage in sustainable redox-flow systems to absorb peaks in the electricity grid, storage directly linked to solar cells and batteries with an unparalleled energy density are developments that showcase the broad electrochemical and materials scientific knowledge and expertise of ECN part of TNO.
ECN part of TNO's knowledge of the subsurface plays an important role in the development of large-scale seasonal energy storage in salt caverns, for example.
Storage of heat plays a role both in the built environment and, especially for high temperatures, in industry. In collaboration with both the industry and universities, ECN part of TNO is developing technology for the storage of heat, for example by using metals as carbon-free fuel for the production of high-temperature heat.