Re-charging the future – batteries are critical to Europe’s recovery in the post virus era


Karsten Kurz

Director of Environmental Affairs Europe

Exide Technologies

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Re-charging the future – batteries are critical to Europe’s recovery in the post virus era

The EU-based lead battery industry is a secure source of sustainable rechargeable energy and can help boost growth while showing the circular economy in action.

As we mark 50 years since the first Earth Day, it’s difficult to focus on celebrating our collective achievements during the crisis presented by the coronavirus pandemic. Many sick citizens, too many grieving families, essential workers on the frontline, some businesses facing uncertainty and stock market plunges – the collective nature of the global suffering sadly seems to be the one thing we have in common right now.

In 1970, it was also a collective suffering and uncertainty that spurred Earth Day’s nascency. Climate change did then, and still does represent the biggest challenge to the future of humanity and the life-support systems that make our world habitable – a mirroring of the effect of the health crisis we face today. Millions took to the streets protesting environmental issues and demanded a new way forward for our planet. The huge wave of action that was set off around the globe then, is now accepted as the modern environmental movement which today means governments around the world have enshrined climate action as a key focus.

In that same vein, the current pandemic is still today causing a lot of suffering and uncertainty, but its aftermath should be approached as an opportunity. Given fossil-fuel reliant economies only signal more uncertainty and unpredictability, we need to break with the patterns which brought us here and instead continue building the circular, sustainable and highly competitive economy our industry already supports.

As the world has united in its efforts to tackle the virus, it has also proved that collective action is possible on a global scale. So we can continue to unite and deliver sustainable growth, greater electrification and a lower carbon future. And to do that we need batteries – and lots of them.

The EU Green Deal is clearly, now more than ever, the recovery and growth strategy which will not only help reboot our economies, but achieve the transition to a low carbon economy.

Even the business continuity challenges we’re immediately facing highlight this. The sudden reduction in mass production and transit as an example – resulting already in cleaner air – only re-iterates how critical the transition to an energy efficient, decarbonised transport sector in Europe is. In the Green Deal context, the long-term plan is to deliver clean, socially fair, competitive mobility to all Europeans. We know that Europe’s successful lead battery industry is already leading this shift – supporting sustainable, low emission transport systems, increased vehicle hybridisation and electrification, all the way from start-stop technology to full battery electric vehicles (EVs).

Beyond mobility, renewable energies and clean technologies are a massive economic and industrial opportunity, the optimum vehicles for the best-case post-crisis future. Supporting jobs and stimulating economies while still accelerating the green transition – the Green Deal is able to deliver on these twin benefits as part of a ‘green recovery’. The efforts will make clear the critical importance of battery energy storage. A range of technologies will be required to meet this demand and, with the lead battery one of only two technologies currently with the scale and capability to meet this vast unmet need.

With the daily challenges and changes posed by the pandemic’s impact on our workforces, families and communities, it is tempting to think of short-term solutions and quick-fixes. This carries the risk of locking us into a fossil fuel economy for decades to come. Instead, reflecting on the 50-year legacy of Earth Day, we should collectively look to re-charge the future by investing in the transition to a new and sustainable economy.

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