Power-to-gas new focus for future of renewable energy storage

For renewable generation to transform the energy market, better storage is needed. The EIA has highlighted what it thinks will be an important technology.

Large-scale electricity storage technologies are currently limited in use, with pumped hydroelectric storage accounting for more than 98% of total storage capacity. The expense of pumped hydro and demanding geographical requirements mean there is a real need for other kinds of storage. The EIA, the US Energy Information Administration, has recently suggested P2G as a potential alternative, a stance that has possibly significant implications for the UK.

What is power-to-gas?

A power-to-gas system converts electricity generated during periods of high output and low demand (such as strong wind energy output during off-peak hours) by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen through electrolysis. The hydrogen is stored for future use as renewable fuels, while the oxygen may be sold for industrial use or released into the atmosphere.

There are three potential uses for the stored hydrogen:

  • Using hydrogen gas (H2) directly (or blended with natural gas) for power generation or vehicle fuel
  • Injecting hydrogen (H2) and either oxygen (O2) or air into fuel cells to produce electricity
  • Combining the hydrogen (H2) with carbon dioxide (CO2) to create synthetic methane (CH4), which could be used as a replacement for natural gas


P2G for business electricity and gas

As the EIA notes, the commercial use of power-to-gas tech is primarily being considered in Europe, where it is being reviewed by the European Gas Research Group and energy departments of several countries (Germany has 18 experimental programmes underway).

But P2G is not a standalone solution – to make full use of the technology, a smart grid is needed to match areas and periods of supply and demand.

The end goal is to flatten out the peaks and troughs that currently require an expensive surplus of electricity to be supplied. The end aim, of course, is cheaper business electricity. With P2G very much at the development stage, eventual gains will take years, if not decades, to materialise.

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