Renewable energy needs to be storable if it is to account for a larger proportion of the energy mix. This is because volatility is the main problem associated with renewables. Industry and households still need electricity when the sun stops shining or the wind stops blowing. The necessary reduction of emissions in the future energy system can only be achieved if part of the energy collected in summer can be stored for the winter, which in turn will safeguard supply security.
RAG’s long-term strategy is focused on combining conventional gas storage with renewables and implementing needs-based structures on an industrial scale, with a view to promoting achievement of Europe’s climate goals by supplying carbon-neutral energy over the long term.
To do this, we aim to make use of existing gas infrastructure, comprising storage, pipelines and wells – this will form the basis of a climate-friendly and affordable renewable energy system in the future. Increased use of solar and wind power, their conversion using electrolysis and subsequent storage in the form of hydrogen will also require further spending on technology development and significant investment in storage technologies in the coming years. This will involve expanding hydrogen production in Austria and Europe, as well as the development of high-capacity hydrogen storage facilities.
RAG has been working on cutting-edge solutions designed to reduce emissions in the entire energy system and make renewable energy storable since 2013. Through our Underground Sun Storage and Underground Sun Conversion projects, along with the follow-up initiatives USC-FlexStore and USS 2030, and in our role as a sustainable technology leader, we are working towards the seasonal, carbon-neutral underground storage of large volumes of green gas (biogas and hydrogen). Produced from renewable sources such as solar and wind, it will be available for withdrawal when needed – in the form of gas for use in power and heat generation, in industry and transportation and as a raw material. We are committed to protecting security of supply – both now and in the future.
Sustainability is an integral part of our strategy. The cornerstone of this approach is the sustainable use of former production sites, a concept that we refer to as “sustainable energy mining” at RAG’s energy centres. The aim is to put existing production infrastructure, reservoirs, above-ground facilities and pipeline systems to efficient use as environmentally friendly, regional energy centres. This also involves expanding them and making operations at these sites increasingly climate-neutral. Our strategy is centred on the sustainable after-use of natural reservoirs in porous geological strata, which are called pore reservoirs. RAG’s sustainable energy mining concept will trigger innovation in Austrian industry, cut emissions, boost regional economic growth and reduce dependence on energy imports.
Gas is a great all-rounder and a vital component of the renewables-based energy system of the future. It is storable, clean, safe, affordable and completely reliable – and it can be green as well. At present, conventional natural gas is primarily used to ensure supplies of electricity and heat, and as a fuel for transportation, but in the future, green gas and clean hydrogen will also be used for these purposes. Therefore RAG is concentrating on combining the gas storage business with renewable energy forms – what we call “renewables and gas”. In the future, we will use natural gas as a raw material for producing hydrogen and high-value carbon, which can be used as a base material for batteries, insulation materials, tyres, construction materials and steel, or in agriculture as a soil conditioner.
Building on our resources, infrastructure and know-how, we are driving forward the development and roll-out of innovative, groundbreaking, carbon-neutral energy solutions based on green gas technologies.
RAG’s internationally registered patents are testament to its expertise in these areas. Each year, the company invests around EUR 5-6m in research and development (R&D).
Implementation of the strategy and the achievement of related targets are assessed at regular strategy meetings, and adjustments are made where necessary.