Europe needs a new industrial strategy in which to champion batteries
Concerned by China, the EU is rapidly looking for a new industrial strategy to match the perceived power and influence of a resurgent People’s Republic. Whether or not that threat is real, the case for an industrial strategy that supports the EU’s industrial strengths must be a priority for the newly mandated European Commission following elections to the EU Parliament in May. Not only to counter unfair competition, but also to facilitate industrial decarbonisation, and the opportunities it brings.
One of the final big acts of the current Commission has been the publication of a strategic long-term vision for a ‘prosperous, modern, competitive and climate-neutral economy by 2050.’ To achieve this goal government policies and business models will have to be transformed to support widespread electrification of the economy and society, alongside a circular economic model. That requires a strategy supporting the development of a wide range of advanced batteries, whether that is for vehicles or for renewables energy storage, pegged against dedicated sustainability criteria.
One of the successes of this Commission’s term has been the creation of a batteries alliance and a batteries action plan for Europe. One of its weaknesses has been to focus predominantly on one battery technology, omitting to support Europe’s existing strengths in this area and the jobs it generates in our societies.
The irony is that the EU already has at least one sustainable home-grown battery success story of its own – an industry that is self-sufficient in raw materials and manufacturing capability. The lead battery industry supplies around 75 per cent of the world’s rechargeable battery energy storage and this volume is set to grow as demand soars over the coming decades in response to climate change.
The next stage in the lead battery industry’s evolution should be wholeheartedly supported by legislators and officials alike as part of creating a matrix of battery capabilities across Europe. The Chinese have their belt and road initiative. Europe’s response needs to include a modern industrial strategy to drive its own battery revolution – including lead batteries.