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From oil to sunshine: battery energy storage lights the way

The Middle East is transitioning towards renewable energy. However, the variability of solar and wind power poses a challenge to grid stability. To bridge the gap between intermittent renewable energy generation and continuous electricity demand, battery energy storage systems (BESS) offer a compelling solution.

From oil to sunshine: battery energy storage lights the way

The Middle East region has immense potential for renewable energy generation, particularly solar power. Sun-rich countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Qatar have embarked on ambitious renewable energy projects to diversify their energy mix and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

The transition to renewables is highlighted by the Middle East’s active engagement in global climate action, such as hosting the UN Climate Change Conference COP23 in the United Arab Emirates in 2023 or Saudi Arabia’s construction of NEOM, a city that is to be powered by 100% renewable energy sources.

The Energy Information Agency foresees an estimated 15 - 25 GW from each of the three main renewable energy sources – wind, photovoltaics, and concentrated solar power – in the Middle East by 2035 (1). Saudi Arabia has set itself an ambitious goal of achieving 50 percent green energy by 2030, having secured the highest value of renewable energy contracts awarded between 2012 and 2022. Following closely are Egypt and the UAE (2). To achieve these goals, the region must answer the challenge that the intermittent nature of solar and wind power poses for grid operators in maintaining stable and reliable electricity supply.

The role of BESS in the Middle East

Battery energy storage systems play a vital role in unlocking the true potential of renewable energy sources in the Middle East. By capturing excess energy during periods of high generation and storing it for later use, BESS helps mitigate the intermittency challenge, ensuring a consistent power supply and grid stability.

According to a report by APICORP, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is expected to see a significant increase in the deployment of battery energy storage systems in the coming years. Countries in the MENA region will need to rapidly deploy battery energy storage systems in their power grids if they are to meet their national renewable energy targets (3). According to reports, there are 30 BESS projects planned in MENA between 2021 and 2025 with a total capacity/energy of 653 MW/3,382 MWh. Out of these, 24 projects are dedicated to integrating variable renewable energy (VRE) and enhancing grid stability. The share of batteries out of the total energy storage landscape in MENA is expected to jump from the current 7% to 45% by 2025 (4).


Advantages of Battery Energy Storage Systems

The use of BESS aligns with the region's sustainability objectives. In 2022, more than 5 billion dollars were invested in BESS worldwide, highlighting the growing importance of this technology. The significant investment reflects an acknowledgment that BESS is a crucial tool in minimizing the risks associated with energy bottlenecks and ensuring a smooth transition to renewable energy in the Middle East.

Moreover, the global BESS market is expected to reach between 120 billion and 150 billion dollars by 2030, indicating the promising future prospects and potential growth of this industry worldwide (5).

Let's take a closer look at the significant benefits that BESS are contributing to the transition to renewable energy.

1. Renewable Integration: BESS facilitates the seamless integration of renewable energy sources into the power grids. By storing excess energy during peak solar production periods, battery systems bridge the gap during periods of low or no solar power generation, optimizing the use of renewable resources and reducing reliance on fossil fuel-based generation.

2. Grid Stabilization: The Middle East's electrical grids will benefit significantly from BESS in terms of frequency and voltage regulation. The integration of battery systems helps absorb variations caused by intermittent renewable energy generation, enabling a more stable grid and reducing reliance on conventional backup generation.

3. Demand Management: Battery storage is a game-changer for managing electricity demand. Instead of relying on expensive fossil fuel-powered peaker plants during high-demand times, stored energy can step in, cutting costs and reducing carbon emissions. This not only enhances grid reliability but also aligns with the region's sustainability goals by minimizing carbon emissions. In addition, storing energy also avoids potential energy bottlenecks.

4. Energy Independence: Battery energy storage systems also contribute to enhancing energy independence in the MENA region. Governments in the region are increasingly recognizing the importance of diversifying their energy sources and reducing their dependence on conventional fossil fuels. BESS enables countries in the region to diversify their energy sources and promote renewable energy utilization, supporting their long-term energy security goals.

Enhancing energy storage with COPA-DATA's zenon

Battery energy storage systems, like the zenon software platform, play a crucial role in enabling the integration of renewable energy sources into the Middle East's power grids. zenon is a vendor-independent software platform that supports users to leverage the benefits of battery storage systems of any size. zenon helps control, monitor, and optimize system operation, as well as interconnecting assets with other entities in the smart grid environment. zenon offers real-time monitoring of battery banks, strings, and modules, and real-time key performance indicators (KPIs) and dashboards. It supports vendor-independent connectivity to Battery Management Systems (BMS) and Power Conversion Systems (PCS), and seamless integration of “Balance of Plant” (BoP) components. The robust tool aids the efficient operation of BESS in any setting. With its ready-to-use features and diverse protocol drivers, zenon facilitates energy storage management and seamless coordination with auxiliary systems.

Challenges and future outlook

While the adoption of battery energy storage systems in the Middle East is promising, several challenges need to be addressed for widespread deployment. The BESS market has significant potential, but it faces key challenges for sustained growth and success. A notable challenge is the cost and economics of BESS deployment. Despite falling prices, a significant up-front investment remains a barrier, so a thorough cost-benefit assessment against alternatives such as natural gas peakers is needed for wider deployment.

In addition, BESS faces technological and performance challenges, including limited energy density, degradation over time and safety concerns. Addressing these issues is essential to improve the overall performance and reliability of battery energy storage systems. The lack of standardized regulations and policies specific to energy storage is another barrier to market growth. Clear frameworks covering grid interconnection, safety standards and planning and compliance procedures are essential to facilitate the widespread and efficient deployment of BESS. Furthermore, integrating BESS into existing electricity grids presents technical challenges that may require upgrades or modifications to the grid infrastructure. Efficient grid integration is crucial for the successful deployment of battery energy storage systems (6).

Despite these challenges, recent reports indicate that the UAE has committed to deploying 300MW/300MWh of battery energy storage capacity by 2026 (7).  Similarly, a leading energy storage solutions provider has secured a contract to supply battery energy storage systems to Saudi Arabia's NEOM smart city. The contract covers the supply of 600MWh of BESS, highlighting the significant scale of the project. These developments underline the strategic importance of energy storage solutions in the Middle East, signaling a commitment to sustainable and resilient energy infrastructure (8).

If you would like to take the opportunity to discover more about our BESS solution, please feel free to contact me for a personal consultation.