Europe’s battery industry demands clarity and consistency from regulators
By Dr Marc Zoellner, President of EUROBAT and CEO of battery manufacturer Hoppecke.
The shockwaves from the global pandemic and war in Europe continue to put pressure on European industries, which is why the EU institutions must do all they can to support manufacturing across the member states.
That was the message from the EUROBAT Forum conference in Brussels on 24 June, to discuss the unprecedented range of challenges facing this growing and vital European industry.
Our businesses are at the forefront of technological advances in e-mobility and energy storage, and our technologies support services without which our economies and societies would grind to a halt.
In order for Europe to weather today’s upheavals and any storms that lie ahead, and to achieve the goals we all share for a sustainable, low carbon future, policy makers must work with us to achieve a much more effective outcome.
The current regulatory framework includes a dizzying array of overlapping legislation on substances used in batteries, covering industrial emissions from battery manufacturing, and the end of life of vehicles. Meanwhile the new batteries regulation is progressing slowly but surely, and on 1st July the French Presidency of the Council handed the responsibility to finalise negotiations about the Batteries Regulation to the Czech Republic. That is increasing the risk that policymakers may lose focus, and shift from what is important to what seems easily achievable in the short term. Without more effective regulation supporting Europe’s battery manufacturing we will not maintain existing, or achieve future, strategic autonomy.
Added to this the review of the EU chemicals legislation has enormous implications for the substances that go into batteries. All battery technologies require substances that may be hazardous if handled inappropriately. It is paramount that meaningful standards and procedures are designed to properly ensure the safety and sustainability of materials our industry use, and on which so many products we use every day depend. But that legislation must be proportionate and workable.
Ultimately industry is faced with too many pieces of legislations addressing the exact same things. Battery manufacturers, and the entire battery value chain, need regulatory visibility and clarity about the laws we are governed by. From REACH chemicals legislation, to the Industrial Emissions Directive, and End of Life Vehicles Directive - and many more - they all overlap in some shape or form. This is not only unhelpful, it hampers EU competitiveness and hinders future investment. So I urge policymakers to focus on batteries in one single piece of law, which should be the Batteries Regulation.
And we need discussions across the value chains of all battery technologies in order to review the policy and non-policy measures that were developed in 2018 as part of the European Action Plan on batteries. That action plan has resulted in a number of initiatives (IPCEIs) that allow common investments. I would propose establishing a policy support framework on mining, battery materials, battery manufacturing and recycling. Such analysis should not be done with just a few corporations and the European Commission, but with all relevant stakeholders and therefore the participation of the associations representing the industries.
Our industry’s commitment to responsible manufacturing and materials stewardship is a high priority for all in the European battery industry. Ensuring the health and safety of our employees, the communities where we are based and the environment are always at the top of our agenda. I was proud to be among four associations, including EUROBAT and the Internal Lead Association which joined the Protecting Every Child’s Potential partnership alongside Unicef. Our mission is to help eradicate poor recycling practices in low and middle-income countries and we are supporting a range of initiatives through our material stewardship program for lead batteries, called Lead Battery 360.
It is the combination of our industry’s commitment to sustainability, stewardship and competitiveness that will support a thriving battery industry in Europe at a time of heightened global threats, and energy insecurity. Policymakers, industry and other stakeholders must work together to establish the best possible conditions for the industry’s future success.