French utility EDF is angling to become the European leader in energy storage solutions.

The company unveiled a new Electricity Storage Plan last week with a goal to develop 10 gigawatts of energy storage around the world by 2035, on top of the 5 gigawatts it currently has in operation. EDF said the accelerated plan represents an investment of 8 billion euros — or just shy of $10 billion — between 2018 and 2035.

The move comes as other European energy giants, including Enel, E.ON and Total, are also making significant investments in the energy storage sector.

EDF is already involved in energy storage technology applications, including batteries and pumped hydroelectric storage. The state-owned utility says its ambitions are focused on all segments of the electricity storage market “to help ensure the smooth running of a balanced electricity system, for residential customers, businesses and countries.” The EDF Group is particularly interested in becoming a leader in residential storage and self-consumption services in France and Europe. 

Africa is also a priority market for EDF, where the company has a goal to develop a portfolio of 1.2 million off-grid customers by 2035, through local partnerships. EDF has already deployed 15,000 solar and storage systems in Ivory Coast and is now looking to expand its services in Ghana.

The utility's renewed push into the energy storage business comes as higher levels of solar penetration and a rapid decline in energy storage costs have made batteries an attractive way to shift peak load and reduce stress on the electric grid. Behind-the-meter installations in particular are projected to accelerate in the coming years. According to GTM Research, behind-the-meter storage will rival utility-scale in deployed capacity by 2022. The same trend is underway in Europe and across the globe.

In Italy, local subsidies and a strong solar market are expected to cause behind-the-meter installations to soar after 2021, according to a December report compiled by Delta-ee on behalf of the European Association for Storage of Energy. This growth could enable Italy to overtake Germany, where subsidies also play a big role, as Europe’s top energy storage market after the turn of the decade.

Looking further out, however, the report notes that European markets will start to transition away from a reliance on government support to install batteries, toward more market-based growth.

EDF, which is heavily invested in nuclear power, is looking to diversify its offerings amid a changing energy landscape. This past year the company launched a new Distributed Energy and Storage business unit in the U.S., building on its 2016 acquisition of groSolar. And in December EDF won a 10-megawatt/40-megawatt-hour contract with Pacific Gas & Electric, enabling the company to build out its expertise in smaller-scale storage projects.

Within the next 12 months, EDF plans to launch at least three battery projects to improve the performance and balance of the power system, including EDF Energy’s 49-megawatt battery storage project for Britain’s National Grid — which is set to be one of Europe’s largest battery storage projects.

EDF's plan to deploy an additional 10 gigawatts of energy storage by 2035 will comprise 6 gigawatts of industrial-scale projects, including pumped storage and batteries, and 4 gigawatts of individual batteries for retail customers, companies and municipalities, Reuters reports.

Faced with rapid advancements in storage technology, EDF is also increasing its research and development capabilities as it increases energy storage deployments over the coming years. The utility plans to double its investments in storage for the power system, to 70 million euros ($86 million) for the 2018-2020 period. In addition, EDF’s Nouveaux Business unit will allocate €15 million ($18.4 million) in the next two years — representing a third of its total investments — to projects and startups linked to electricity storage and flexibility.

“Electricity storage technologies have a potential to radically change the energy sector,” said Jean-Bernard Lévy, EDF’s CEO and chairman, in a statement. “EDF’s Electricity Storage Plan is based on the expertise coming from all entities within our Group and 25 years of investment in R&D.”

EDF’s new storage strategy follows the unveiling of a Solar Power Plan late last year, in which the company said it would invest 25 billion euros to build 30 gigawatts of solar power capacity in France between 2020 and 2035.

The French utility has set a new target to reach a 100 percent carbon-free power system by 2050, Lévy said last week. The new Electricity Storage Plan, coupled with the Solar Plan, “confirms EDF’s ability to enable a competitive ecosystem in order to make our carbon-free future a reality.”


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