EU Commission calls for strategic battery value chain

The European Battery Alliance met in Brussels to discuss issues like sustainable production and processing of raw materials.

The European Battery Alliance met in Brussels recently to discuss such issues as sustainable production and the processing of raw materials, ways of financing new investments and the creation of new policies to push forward projects in Europe.

At the meeting, an EU diplomat said that European Union ministers were resolute in their willingness to establish a strategic battery value chain across the continent.

The European Commission Vice President for the Energy Union, Maroš Šefčovič, who was hosting the meeting at ministerial level, said however that countries needed to speed up and coordinate their support for transnational projects across the supply chain.

Ahead of what will be the current Commission’s final ministerial meeting on batteries, Mr Šefčovič said: “Our goal is to see European champions take the lead in the global arena. Batteries is a key strategic sector for the future of mobility and decarbonisation of our economy. Moreover, I am convinced that the EU Battery Alliance can serve as a test-bed for our future industrial policy. Today’s meeting is about showcasing what we can achieve jointly with the Member States and the European Investment Bank, to mobilise our political forces behind innovative and competitive industrial value chains.”

Also in attendance was Margrethe Vestager, the Commissioner in charge of the competition. She said: “Our State aid rules support innovation and sustainability, which are key challenges also for batteries. We have put in place special State aid rules for Important Projects of Common European Interest to facilitate cooperation between the several Member States and companies to jointly design and implement risky and ground-breaking research and innovation projects, whilst ensuring that their benefits are shared widely and do not distort the level playing field in Europe. In December, we approved €1.75-billion in State aid, which unlocked significant private funding for an important project in the microelectronics sector. We are now working closely with the Member States and companies to help make their plans for such projects in the field of batteries a reality.”

Data from project accelerator EIT InnoEnergy found that more than €100-billion has been invested in projects across the continent; from raw material extraction and processing, to end products such as Li-ion batteries and electric vehicles.

These projects include the Northvolt Gigafactory in Sweden which is expected to generate an annual cell production of around 8-gigawatt hours, with an increased capacity of 32 GWh by 2023, putting it on a par with Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory.

The Northvolt Gigafactory will also increase the demand for raw materials. Leading Edge Materials, a member of the European Battery Alliance, is working on a Swedish battery metals project in order to attain the levels of raw materials necessary.

Mark Saxon, Leading Edge Materials CEO said that while Europe is attempted to speed up its battery value chain involvement, further investment is needed.

Mr Saxon commented: “Today’s statement (by Šefčovič) reinforces the European Commission’s view that battery manufacturing is Europe’s next mega-industry. It deals with support for the whole supply chain, including mining, in Europe.”

“A secure supply chain cannot be built without a secure mining industry to underpin it.”

Commission Vice President Šefčovič said that more member states are interested in becoming involved in the European Projects of Common Interest initiative. He said: “I have assured them today that we will look at subsequent projects with the same level of determination and commitment.”

“Moreover, our strategic partnership with the European Investment Bank is reaching an unprecedented level,” he added.

“In May, a decision will be taken by its board on substantial financing for a Gigafactory in Sweden – it means moving from a pilot line to industrial deployment. This should serve as a reference for other investors and future projects.”

Still, further projects are necessary to support the development of the supply chain and political support is essential for encouraging further investment.

“We all agree that we need a robust framework in place to support our European champions,” he said. “This means our sustainability requirements and standards should be ready when EU mass production starts in 2022-23.”

Mr Šefčovič added that the entire value chain needed to be covered by sustainability requirements. This includes sustainable, ethical mining practices, and low carbon footprint production processes.

“This is the only way to underpin our competitiveness and promote our standards globally.”

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