More needs to be done for lead batteries

More needs to be done for lead batteries

The EU’s Green Deal and Industrial Strategy recognise the critical role batteries will play in achieving a low carbon future. Europe benefits from a successful and autonomous advanced lead battery value chain. Ensuring a mix of high-performing battery technologies will be essential.

By: Stephanos Kanidis, Lead Technology Strategic Advisor, SYSTEMS SUNLIGHT S.A.

This year has been a tumultuous one. I don’t think anyone could have estimated the effects that this pandemic would have on the economy, supply chains, air travel, or everyday life. Batteries, essential to powering hospitals, data centres, enabling clean mobility, and providing clean energy, have supported the world and the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has exacerbated another crisis facing society – the impact of climate change. Becoming the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050 is the objective behind the European Green Deal. But while the strategy acknowledges that the EU’s economy needs to be sustainable, it emphasises the need for a growth strategy that will transform the Union into a modern, resource-efficient, and competitive economy. Angela Merkel, speaking in her first address as Germany assumed the Presidency of the EU, stated, “We want a future-proofed Europe, an innovative, sustainable Europe”.

The European Commission’s Industrial Strategy outlines the desire to decarbonise energy-intensive industries, promote energy efficiency, and secure a sufficient and constant supply of low carbon energy at competitive prices. The lead battery industry is one of the important battery foundation technologies which will help achieve this.

The technology currently makes up more than 70% of rechargeable energy storage. Battery energy storage balances power grids and saves surplus energy, representing a reliable means of improving energy efficiency and integrating more renewable energy sources into electricity systems.

The Industrial Strategy acknowledges that critical raw materials are crucial for markets such as batteries and renewable energies. It acknowledges that Europe must enhance its strategic autonomy in several specific areas, including in strategic value chains. The EU Commission must, therefore, recognise the strategically autonomous, reliable lead battery supply chain, where almost all battery recycling occurs in the EU.

The Industrial Strategy’s Circular Economy Action Plan proposes a sustainable product policy framework that will establish sustainability principles for all products, helping to make Europe’s industry more competitive. Action will include sustainability requirements for batteries. Lead batteries consistently demonstrate their ability to achieve circular economy principles. The average lead battery made in the EU today contains more than 80% recycled materials, and almost all of the lead recovered in the recycling process is used to make new lead batteries. Lead can be recycled infinitely with no loss of quality or performance. Sunlight is a testament to that, since our recycling arm provides more than 50% of our total lead needs every year.

I agree with the EU Commission’s proposal to revise the regulatory framework regarding batteries, but I propose a new regulatory framework that doesn’t completely exclude lead batteries. This new regulatory framework needs to accept that lead batteries have a role to play in the low carbon transition, and secure the supply chain of raw materials in order to help, not hinder progress.

The industry, together with other stakeholders, is now calling for the development of a Battery Package to work on these files coherently and from a broader perspective. This will be an important opportunity for the European lead battery industry to address legislative overlaps that exist between the Batteries Directive, End-of-Life Vehicles Directive and REACH Regulation.

That is one of the reasons that we attended this year’s ELBC, which features industry insights from global industry leaders and experts, who set out their predictions and provided insights in a rapidly changing environment. ELBC is an example of what the industry is doing and demonstrates how the lead battery industry has managed through the global health crisis.

Read more for why battery energy storage is the power behind the EU’s transition plans.

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