DOE cuts off hydrogen in energy storage policy plan

The Department of Energy (DOE) has snubbed hydrogen as a form of innovative energy storage that the entire Philippine power supply chain can prospectively lean on for efficient and reliable operations into the future and despite the fact that this storage technology is already the center of attention of whip-smart energy planners and project-developers worldwide.

Players in the energy story business sounded off their big disappointment following the release of the DOE draft Circular prescribing policies on the investment rollout of energy storage systems (ESS) in the domestic energy sector.

The ESS definition set forth by the DOE proposed Circular primarily classified energy storage technologies as: battery energy storage system (BESS), compressed air energy storage (CAES); flywheel energy storage or FES; and pumped storage hydropower or PSH.

The propounded DOE policy stipulated that ESS classifications are “not limited” to the specified technologies, but ESS industry players have a strong feeling that hydrogen energy storage cannot just be treated as “accidental participant” (saling-pusa) because this is now the sharp focus globally on planning the low carbon pathway of energy markets.

The ongoing innovations in the hydrogen space are also prompted by reported unwarranted practices in the BESS realm – primarily those that depend on lithium-ion, which is now heavily linked to human rights abuses on cobalt mining, the raw material for that technology.

Hydrogen energy storage is a chemical-underpinned storage produced in safer form; and in which electrical power is converted into hydrogen -- then the stored energy can be released as fuel in combustion engines or fuel cells when needed in the system – and this is not just for power solutions but it is also applicable in transport nexus.

According to sources from the DOE, hydrogen is in the radar of the department but since there are no pilot projects or deployments being done yet on this technology in the domestic energy market, it has been not been included in the ongoing ESS policy framing of the department.

Well-operated energy markets typically stretch all-inclusive planning strategies through 30 to 50 years especially those that have been ramping up integration of variable renewable energy (RE) in their ecosystems- and they also capture new and future technologies that will reshape and even surprise markets in the years or decades ahead.

Even energy markets in the Southeast Asian region are now flourishing on their hydrogen technology deployments – with Vietnam anticipating project completion within this year; Thailand, Indonesia and Cambodia also scaling up on investments for this technology; while Singapore and Malaysia had already cast their hydrogen investment strategy roadmap.

Another major concern raised by industry players in the ESS space is the ‘debatable wordsmithing’ proffered for energy storage system – as the proposed policy still limits its coverage to ‘generation’ despite the extended purposes set out under Section 4 of the draft Circular which already included addressing ancillary services or reserves requirement of power grids; as well as those on transmission and distribution (T&D) network enhancements.

As fleshed out in the targeted policy, ESS refers to “a facility capable of absorbing energy generated from an RE plant or from a generation facility connected to the grid or distribution system; and injecting stored energy when prompted, needed to ensure reliability and balanced power system.”

Industry players noted that if such definition is cross-referenced to the ESS purposes in Section 4 of the draft Circular, there is an obvious disconnect of policy concepts and the functions of energy storage that the DOE would want to pursue via the policy.

At this stage, the industry players are hoping that energy officials will seriously consider all facets of technology advancements and innovations that will eventually reign in the ESS investment sphere.