ILA Blog

The EU is short-circuiting its battery plans

Dr Andy Bush

ONE of the most high-profile EU Commissioners (and forthcoming candidate for the EU presidency) Maroš Šefčovič, has been in Washington D.C., US, speaking at Tesla, showcasing Europe’s commitment to developing a competitive and sustainable battery ecosystem.

He did so on the day that chemical regulators in the EU took aim at one of the most important substances used in battery energy storage globally, lead metal.

In a process designed to severely restrict, or in essence ban, the use of lead metal the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) added lead to its ‘candidate list’ of substances in line for authorisation.

It’s clear to anyone who knows anything about energy storage and batteries that there is a huge policy disconnect between these two positions.

The impact of this sort of restrictive chemicals legislation would signal the end for lead batteries, essential technology currently responsible for the 75% of the world’s rechargeable battery energy storage requirements.

Clearly all batteries placed on the market contain or use hazardous substances for their manufacture. If the EU continues on its course of preventing industry’s ability to use what is already a highly regulated and carefully controlled substance, it will stall growth and innovation in the battery sector.

It will have the opposite effect to Commissioner Šefčovič's aim of achieving competitiveness and of course it will stifle many industries who rely on EU battery-making capability.

The concern ECHA is highlighting is the toxicity of lead. Yet ALL batteries contain toxic substances, which is why the priority is to reduce and eliminate the danger of exposure to these substances, not outlaw them. Lead batteries are sealed units with no risk of exposure to consumers. Control of exposure during the manufacturing process is already covered by existing regulation.

While it may seem counter intuitive, this latest attempt to impose additional regulation will impede Europe’s transformation to a decarbonised economy.

That’s why, together with Eurobat, the European battery association, we are urging the EU to work with industry to support a more proportionate way of managing risks, instead of the blunt instrument currently being put forward, which will disincentivise investment in the EU lead battery industry and set back Europe’s decarbonisation and electrification plans. The EU needs a much more coherent and joined-up policy for energy storage and innovation in battery technology.

We are calling on officials and legislators in Europe to wake up to this policy disconnect which flies in the face of the batteries action plan and innovation funding announced just weeks ago.


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