May 17. 2021. 6:05

The Daily

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Net positive: charging-up Europe’s batteries

This year’s EU Industry Days reflect the rapid need to transition to a modern, clean and fair economy. One which aims to drive Europe’s industrial competitiveness while boosting its strategic autonomy, securing important resources and reduce our reliance on others for vital raw materials.

It is the task of policymakers to create the best possible conditions for EU industries to generate green growth, to innovate and nurture sustainable industries. It is industry’s job to invest and build cutting-edge manufacturing and associated businesses- and to achieve all this while undergoing a fundamental transformation to a low carbon economy.

Europe’s home-grown battery value chain, which includes lead-, lithium, nickel- and sodium-based batteries will play a significant role in helping to achieve Europe’s low carbon goals. An established, sustainable manufacturing capability, producing some of the most advanced batteries, is key to achieving a renewable future.

And to take lead batteries as one example, almost all the lead batteries we make in Europe are collected and recycled at the end of their life. And those lead batteries manufactured today in Europe contain up to 80% recycled material – ones which are present in your car, provide back-up for telecom networks, data-centers and other critical infrastructure such as power plants, airports, hospitals and the railway and mass transit systems.

The significance of our battery industry to the EU’s call for greater strategic autonomy and raw material security cannot be denied. By reducing reliance on external suppliers and building a strong and innovative manufacturing base, Europe will build a more resilient economic bloc. In this regard, the impact of the new Batteries Regulation on the EU battery industry will be huge. As with so many markets, the battery industry has already become global and extremely competitive, especially if we take into consideration the dominance that China has had in recent years. New legislation will help secure Europe’s position as a centre of excellence for battery technologies and recycling, developing a circular economy, requiring a new framework covering, for the first time, the full life cycle of a battery, from mining to end-of-life.

The current proposals for new batteries regulations aim to create the conditions that will help the EU continue to thrive. The specific proposal to introduce a carbon footprint declaration is a welcome one for us. With our proven circular economy success and reliable track record, ensuring that batteries placed on the EU market are sustainable, high-performing and safe during their entire life cycle is now an established characteristic rather than future goal for the lead battery industry. As an energy-intensive but also energy-conscious industry, there is always more to do. Given that one of the European battery industry’s key differentiators is the fact that it operates to the highest environmental and social standards, we would like to see a stronger emphasis of these standards in the legislative proposals.

We must not forget that Europe’s industrial strategy is more than a push for ‘clean technologies’. It is about driving productivity growth and building a culture of continuous innovation. Global demand for battery energy storage is expected to grow from around 650 GWh in 2020 to between 1100 and 2000 GWh in 2025. This means at least a doubling of the demand and thus production over the next five years. As Europe seeks to move away from fossil fuels, more battery energy storage will be needed to really harness this market promise and meet the increased demand from greater vehicle electrification and hybridisation, and wider integration of renewable energies.

Europe’s future as centre of excellence for battery technologies, supporting all battery technologies and building on its home-grown battery value chains with its advanced manufacturing and recycling capability, is a bright one which underpins the EU’s low carbon vision. To recognise, nurture and support it, can only lead us closer to the modern, clean and fair economy that all Europeans want – and deserve.