An industry chief is warning that 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”.
Dr Andy Bush, head of the International Lead Association, said that 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”.
The European 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, yesterday, Dr Bush said plans to put the four lead compounds through the REACH ‘authorisation’ process signals the EU’s intention to phase out their use.
He told 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 decarbonization and electrification plans.
Dr Bush added: “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.”
Energy storage in Europe will be tackled in detail at European Utility Week, which takes place in November in Vienna. Click here for details.