Energy storage is ignored crisis within the climate crisis - Malcolm Turnbull

The former Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull has warned of the risks of not investing in clean energy storage to back up solar and wind power, saying it is the ‘ignored crisis within the climate crisis’.

Writing in Nikkei Asia, the Co-Chair of the International Forum on Pumped Storage Hydropower sets out the importance of urgent investment in renewables to decarbonise the global economy.

“Unless we stop burning fossil fuels, and dramatically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, our world is doomed,” he writes.

“We, of course, need much more solar and wind energy. But what is often forgotten is that we also need long-term, large capacity energy storage for when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine.

“Unless we address that challenge now, we will either fall back on fossil fuels or face blackouts as our electricity supply becomes unreliable.”

Real risk that decarbonisation will stall

Read the article on Nikkei Asia. The English language publication focused on the Asian continent is the sister publication to the Financial Times.

The International Energy Agency has described hydropower as the "forgotten workhorse of renewables" and the IEA's report, Net Zero by 2050: a Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector, lays out the need for substantial growth in wind, solar and hydropower.

“The cost of solar and wind energy is dropping all the time, and it is getting faster to deploy. But there is a real risk that national storage capacity will not keep up with renewable generation,” says Mr Turnbull.

While lithium batteries can play an important role in storing electricity for a few hours, the only proven low carbon technology for storing electricity for longer periods is hydropower, he explains. This requires policy-makers and industry to make urgent decisions now to support new pumped hydropower projects.

“Due to hydropower's long lead-in times, if we do not build in the next three to five years, then the world may not have enough hydropower capacity to support the transition to net zero. There will be a real risk that decarbonisation will stall, just as it needs to accelerate.”

Pumped storage forum recommendations

Launched in November 2020 by the International Hydropower Association (IHA) and co-chaired by Mr Turnbull and the U.S. Department of Energy, the International Forum on Pumped Storage Hydropower is a government-led multi-stakeholder platform to shape and enhance the role of pumped storage in future power systems.

The Forum brings together governments, industry, financial institutions, academia and NGOs to develop guidance and recommendations on how sustainable pumped storage hydropower can best support the energy transition.

The Forum is set to release a series of reports and recommendations at the World Hydropower Congress. Attend the Forum’s high-level panel session on September 16 2021 featuring Mr Turnbull and U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Kelly Speakes-Backman by registering for free online.

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