The Batteries of the Future: Actions to Take Today
On 9 February 2021, EASE and Batteries Europe welcomed more than 200 participants to discuss the future of batteries, the challenges currently faced by battery manufacturers, and possible solutions to foster the EU leadership in the battery storage field.
The batteries of the future
Ms Edel Sheridan, representing the Batteries Europe Secretariat, highlighted how new and emerging technologies, new raw materials, cell design, and manufacturing, as well as a higher degree of digitalisation, are to be expected in the near future. This will lead to new applications with greater tailoring for e.g. both mobility and stationary storage, and with smart functionality resulting in longer life and higher performance for batteries. It is paramount to adopt a circular economy approach, in line with the EU climate objectives. But in order to achieve a sustainable battery design, production, use and recycling, a great coordination effort in terms of R&I is needed.
Battery technologies have the potential to radically change the future energy and mobility systems but, as highlighted by EASE Secretary General, Mr Patrick Clerens, the battery legislation needs to adapt to foster innovation and new battery solutions. Performance and durability requirements may be rapidly outdated and hinder the introduction of new types of batteries, while preventing manufacturers from introducing specific solutions for different clients. Similarly, Mr Clerens suggested that ambitious, proper, science-based recycling rates are needed – batteries’ content must be recycled – e.g. within the industry, not necessarily in new batteries. Finally, to untap the potential of competition that can lead to new, transformative batteries, it is fundamental to adopt a “technology neutral” approach in the legislation.
The challenges for the battery Industry
During the event representatives for the batteries industry shared their views on the main challenges currently faced by battery manufactures in Europe. The debate revolved around some key points:
- Innovation in Europe
- Market regulation
- Manufacturing and recycling challenges
- Attracting investments
Panellists discussed that, even for battery technologies that have been around for decades, there is still untapped potential. Innovations in Europe are pushing the boundaries in terms of e.g. performance and recyclability.
Besides, when discussing how market regulation can foster the battery storage business case, a few points were highlighted. First, that regulation should allow for long-term contracts for services offered by storage facilities. Also, that is hard to find a niche market for new technologies – the market is not segmented between short and long(er) term storage. Besides, that double charging should be avoided. Finally, that new market products for flexibility services/proper price signals/tender mechanisms should be introduced across Europe.
Panellists also talked about manufacturing: upscaling can be a serious challenge. But it is paramount to produce in sustainable way, tackling challenges along all the value chain. Besides, the importance of focusing on low footprint, supply chain ethics and sustainability (manufacturers have a social responsibility), recycling and circularity was also touched upon. Still, on the latter point, a paradox was highlighted: if materials are cheap, abundant and environmentally friendly, there may be no value in recycling and it is a pure cost.
When discussing investments, it was underlined that it is hard to attract investments for different technologies – investors tend to focus on Li-Ion. A panellist also pointed out that, on top of the previously mentioned market regulation changes, it is key to ensure health and safety by being open and transparent with all stakeholders – also to attract investors.
All in all, actors active in the battery value chain face several challenges. It is paramount to create a level playing field where different batteries technologies compete while being appropriately remunerated for the services they provide.
The EU has the opportunity to strengthen the European battery value chain and promote innovation through appropriate legislation. In this sense the Batteries Regulation Proposal presented by the European Commission in December 2020 is very ambitious and “all-encompassing”. During the event, Ms Flavia Raffaelli, Head of Unit for Circular Economy and Construction at the European Commission, underlined that the Commission aims at having batteries for different sectors and recognise that all energy storage technologies are an enabler of the energy transition. She also pointed out that one of the Commission’s objectives is to create a “snowball effect”, i.e. that EU’s provisions will be adopted around the world. Finally, MEP Claudia Gamon (Renew Europe group) stressed the commitment of the European Parliament to make clear to industry stakeholders, national and regional authorities that energy storage is key for the energy transition.
What are EASE’s conclusions?
Europe has the opportunity to attract investments and achieve ambitious targets, if the industry and politics are able to launch appropriate initiatives. Developing sustainable, innovative batteries is a key objective of the EU. While recent initiatives, both from the EU and Industry stakeholders, go in the right direction, there is still significant room for improvement, especially from a regulatory perspective.