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European battery firms push for sustainability laws

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

Eight European battery companies have written to the European Commission not to delay implementation of legislation for more sustainable batteries.

The proposed delays of up to four years would allow Chinese battery makers to become established in the European supply chain.

“Europe’s battery value chain is being set up now, not in three or four year’s time,” says the letter from NorthVolt, ACC, Skeleton Technologies, Targa, Verkor, InnoEnergy, Eramet and Vulkan Energy. “With speed the critical element in this fast growing industry, any further delays in implementing the regulation will be too late to give European newcomers a head start over larger incumbent players in the race to dominate this key strategic technology.”

“Several EU Member States are suggesting delays of up to four years to the timelines for the carbon footprint requirements. This would be a mistake,” said NorthVolt, which is building several gigafactories across Europe. The letter is published ahed of a meeting by European politicians tomorrow, December 20th. “We want to speed up rules that will regulate the industry, and at minimum we’re calling for supply chain due diligence obligations in place one year after the regulation enters into force, and for that to be as soon as possible. Delays in implementing the key parts of the regulation are unnecessary, counterproductive and, ultimately, would be a clear mistake,” it said.

More than 38 gigafactories are planned or announced in Europe, with a total estimated capacity of 462 GWh in 2025 alone, enough to power around 8 million battery electric cars. This will put Europe firmly on the global battery map, accounting for one fifth of global cell production by the mid-2020s, second only to China.

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These gigafactories are of crucial importance to EU industrial competitiveness and sovereignty: by the European Commission’s own calculations, the European battery value chain will be worth over €250 billion by 2025.

In December 2020 the European Commission (EC) proposed a new sustainable battery law aiming to create a resilient, sustainable and competitive battery industry. The proposal is an opportunity to introduce smart regulations that can underpin the rapid development of a world-leading battery supply chain in Europe, say the companies. Putting in place future-proof rules to ensure batteries both made in and coming into Europe are green and ethical will make sure Europe’s new battery industry is born sustainable from the get go.

“We are concerned, therefore, to see a recent Council text proposing delays of up to 66 months (4 years compared to the EC proposal) for the introduction of rules aiming at reducing batteries’ carbon footprint (a key competitive advantage for Europe), and a delay of 36 months (2 years compared to EC proposal) for the phase-in of mandatory supply chain checks for environmental and human rights abuses,” says the letter.

“Europe is endowed with the raw materials and energy needed to make the world’s most sustainable batteries,” Mark Thompson, founder and managing director of Talga Group, said. “However, Europe will only transition to a truly green economy if the EU adopts an ambitious batteries regulation policy and speeds up its permitting processes for new local projects.”

Raw materials and recycling company Eramet, said: “The electric vehicle market is growing fast. We must act now to develop large-scale electric mobility in Europe. At Eramet, we are convinced that it is imperative to put in place an ambitious legislative framework to build a competitive, ethical and sustainable battery industry. As actors in this value chain from the supply of raw materials to battery production and recycling, we all have solutions to contribute to Europe’s essential energy transition, and this needs to happen today.”

Skeleton Technologies added: “Europe has all the right resources and innovators to lead the development of the multi-billion EV industry and decarbonised electricity production. To keep innovating and lead in the strategic field of existing and future battery technologies, the EU needs an ambitious batteries regulation policy. It shouldn’t be delayed, as decarbonisation shouldn’t be delayed either.”

www.northvolt.com; www.skeleton.com

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