Thousands of European battery industry jobs could be at risk if EU backs red tape move, industry warns
THE EU is putting thousands of jobs and the future of a critical battery energy storage industry in jeopardy through a regulatory process packed with unintended consequences, an industry chief is warning.
A proposal for an in-effect ban on the use of four chemical compounds, mainly used in the manufacture of lead batteries, is now threatening the future of the continent’s battery-making capability and the industries it supports, according to Dr Andy Bush, head of the International Lead Association.
The Commission is considering adding four lead compounds, all of which are irreplaceable in lead battery production, to its REACH authorisation list, a process which sets an end date for their use. The compounds concerned are only used in the manufacturing stage, and are not included in the final battery, which is fully sealed, limiting consumer exposure to its contents.
Speaking to delegates at an intergovernmental meeting in Lisbon, Portugal on October 5, Dr Bush will say plans to put the four lead compounds through the REACH ‘authorisation’ process signals the EU's intention to phase out their use.
He will tell delegates: “This approach sets an end date for the use of these substances, and sends a signal to investors, the business community and to the market that lead battery manufacturing in Europe will be prohibited after a given period.
“That is a guaranteed way of stunting future growth and disincentivising further investment or innovation. It also jeopardises thousands of jobs and companies throughout the value chain across numerous member states – all at the same time as the Commission is launching a batteries action plan for Europe.
“The EU urgently needs to think again on this and look at alternative, more proportionate measures to reduce risks – which we support – such as updating the workplace rules limiting employee exposure to these chemicals.”
Lead batteries currently provide 75 per cent of all rechargeable energy storage worldwide, supporting everything from start-stop engines in cars to emergency back-up power systems in hospitals and data centres.
In the future, analysts predict lead batteries alongside other technologies will support the huge growth in demand for energy storage as part of Europe’s decarbonisation and electrification plans.
Dr Bush adds: “This is the dead hand of business regulation at its worst. It’s counterproductive, counterintuitive and flies in the face of the EU’s own policies in terms of supporting future battery technology and energy storage requirements.
“This move also favours lead battery producers outside of the EU, who are not affected by the legislation, meaning in future the batteries will need to be imported when the authorisation period ends.
“It all points to the need for a rethink and we are urging officials and the member states involved in this process to reconsider and look at alternative options.”
Note to editors:
Dr Andy Bush is speaking at the International Lead and Zinc Study Group Session on 5 October 2018.
For more information contact the ILA Media Office:
The lead battery industry provides jobs and growth. In Europe, the industry directly employs 20,000 people and many more indirectly. However, the wider value chain of downstream users and suppliers – for example the automotive industry which supports 12.9 million employees in the EU – are also affected.
- As the EU sets targets for and invests in electrification and decarbonisation, the importance of rechargeable battery storage becomes a critical success factor.
- Both lead and other battery technologies will be needed to meet anticipated future demand for energy storage in both short and longer term.
- Lead batteries are environmentally sustainable and a strong example of the circular economy in action. More than ninety-nine per cent of lead batteries available for collection are recycled, while up to 80% of a new lead battery can be made from recycled materials sourced from EU waste. This means that Europe is not reliant on sourcing virgin material from non-EU suppliers. No other battery technology can make this claim.
The International Lead Association is the trusted global trade association for the lead industry and its member companies are at the forefront of the mining, smelting, refining and recycling of lead. ILA represents the producers of about 3 million tonnes of lead. The association is working towards a vision of a sustainable global lead industry that is recognised for the positive contribution it makes to society.
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