Tuesday

16th Jan 2018

Opinion

Batteries set to 'charge' our economy

  • Car battery charging points could become ubiquitous on Europe's streets in a decarbonated future (Photo: Peter Teffer)

The global energy transition is a fascinating quest of innovation.

We constantly improve the ability to produce energy from renewable sources and increase their share in our grids.

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Thanks to climate-conscious public opinion in Europe, long-term public policies, and state-of-the art industry, Europe is set to lead this global transition into a clean economy. Next month will see another major milestone as the Commission will present a major legislative proposal on boosting clean transport.

But given the variability of renewable energy sources, it is not enough that we produce clean energy if we do not develop efficient, commercial, and accessible solutions for storing it.

That is where batteries come in. Their development has already radically disrupted the mobile market; you wouldn't have a smartphone today if it weren't for the development of lithium batteries. Now they are about to redefine our transport and energy markets. From energising electric vehicles, through storing household-produced energy, to industrial manufacturing – batteries are a critical building block of the decarbonised economy.

That explains the enormous market that batteries are about to create. As of 2025, we expect Europe's battery sector to be worth €250 billion annually; that is the equivalent of the entire Danish economy! Millions of new jobs are about to be created, but the question remains where.

Policy-makers cannot predict the future, but we can greatly influence it. We can create the best conditions for a battery value chain to develop in Europe. This is no little task; given the scale and speed of investment needed, it requires us to work together at a European level. That is exactly the process we triggered this week as we convened the first high-level meeting on battery development and production.

Our goal was to engage the commitment of public and private stakeholders from all across Europe to immediately start working together on bringing the battery market to Europe.

Europe is lagging behind

Currently, Europe is lagging behind as we are lacking a cell manufacturing base. This jeopardises the security of our supply chain, increases costs of transportation, creates time delays, weaker quality control and limitations on the design.

But I am highly optimistic, given the level enthusiasm from all corners of Europe to take part, to be part of this change.

On Wednesday, we were joined by high-level government officials from a dozen European member states as well as major European manufacturers of cells and battery systems, equipment manufacturers, energy providers, research associations, financial institutions etc. We agreed to work together towards an EU Battery Alliance.

So our real work starts now. Over the next few months we will look together into joining our efforts to create a battery supply chain in Europe, find adequate investment, address trade issues, and boost our research and innovation on batteries. A lot is already happening on each of these topics, but now we will connect the dots and draw the larger picture.

This process will be inclusive. I am inviting all interested industrial players, research and innovation actors, member states and financial institutions to join us. The result of our joint efforts will be presented in February with our new a strategic industry-led roadmap for an EU Battery Alliance.

Some economies will stay in the fossil age; others are already charging the future economy. Europe has made its choice.

Maros Sefcovic is vice-president of the European Commission in charge of the Energy Union

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