This month marks the one-year anniversary of the European Battery Alliance (EBA). With energy storage in Europe increasing by 49% in 2017, the need for a rapidly scalable battery manufacturing industry becomes ever more obvious, and the EBA is striving to achieve this goal. The EBA’s ambitions, outlined in the Battery Action Plan are strategically imperative for our energy transition. We clearly need to foster a competitive and sustainable battery value chain in Europe, for all battery technologies.
The European battery manufacturing industry must galvanize itself, using initiatives such as the Battery Action Plan as building blocks for sustainable battery production. Though we are far from accomplishing the goals laid out in the European Commission’s plan, what remains clear is the importance of industry-wide collaboration. This is particularly pertinent when considering the variety of battery technologies we use today, and how they contribute to our energy transition efforts.
As renewable energy from wind and solar accelerates, there will be increasing demand for a range of tried and tested energy storage technologies that are safe, reliable and cost effective, including batteries. We must transition from traditional modes of energy distribution and unlock the new and existing potential of batteries to store green energy. No single technology provides the solution to Europe’s future energy storage requirements. But the key to success is to embrace and nurture a diverse range of technologies – acknowledging the strengths and capabilities of different types of batteries.
Once this happens, through public and private sector engagement, the battery industry can most effectively contribute to decarbonisation efforts. With this month’s IPCC report alarmingly calculating that the world needs to build a net zero global economy by 2050 to limit temperature increases to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, we really have no time to waste. As governments across Europe respond to this by strengthening ambitions to develop low-carbon technologies, they must continue to invest in established battery technologies that are already contributing to decarbonisation. This broader focus should be reflected in the Battery Alliance.
Lead-based batteries are an example of an existing technology that already contributes immensely to Europe’s energy transition. Up to 80% of a new lead battery is sourced from recycled EU waste. Moreover, an advanced lead battery’s main components can be used, recycled and reused infinitely. Day-to-day, lead batteries already support emergency back-up power in hospitals, mobile phone networks and internet servers. The Avicenne Energy Report cites lead batteries as providing “more than 75% of worldwide rechargeable energy storage”, and are essential in green battery applications, such as start/stop technology in car engines.
But the lead battery industry has no intentions to stop here. It continues to invest millions in research to enhance capacity and performance, helping achieve Europe’s clean energy goals. Indeed, a report commissioned by Eurobat found that the EU battery manufacturing industry collectively spent €740 million on R&D and Innovation-related investments (i.e. infrastructure) over the past five years, with an additional €105 million for R&D&I related expenses (e.g. material costs) and manufacturing-related investments (e.g. pilot lines) of € 915 million. The majority of these investments contributed to the development of lead-based battery technologies.
Society will be worse off if we ignore the ability of lead batteries to contribute to the resolution of Europe’s complex energy needs in a sustainable way. Our lead battery industry is advanced, sustainable, and highly competitive at a global level and, as such, should be considered an industry best practice.
A single battery technology cannot transform Europe’s energy sector on its own. With climate change widely acknowledged as the biggest threat to our planet and humanity, advancing at an alarming rate, we must commit to collaboration now or never. The European Battery Alliance acknowledges that a wide range of battery technologies will be needed to decarbonise the economy. It is time to put this in practice. Europe cannot afford for lead batteries to be left out of the conversation.