Report: sustainable batteries represent the best prospect for meeting Paris climate goals; requires $550B investment over 10 years
20 September 2019
Advances in the production, use and reuse of batteries mean that the technology could become the most significant intervention to keep global warming within the limits set by the Paris Agreement on climate change between now and 2030, according to a new report commissioned by the Global Battery Alliance, a public-private partnership led by the World Economic Forum.
The report—A Vision for a Sustainable Battery Value Chain in 2030—suggests that, with a concerted push to put the right conditions in place, batteries could enable a 30% reduction in carbon emissions in both the transport and power sectors. These two sectors alone collectively account for 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions today.
Such a reduction in emissions would help keep the world within its 2°C Paris Agreement goal, the report finds. It requires immediate action along the battery value chain alongside investments in other technologies such as hydrogen and in other industries. This would also contribute to achieving the more ambitious 1.5° goal of the Paris Agreement’s, the report concludes.
In addition to examining the role batteries could play in helping to tackle climate change, the report finds that wider economic and societal benefits could also be accrued from systemically investing in the entire battery value chain from mining to reuse or recycling. In terms of employment, 10 million high-quality jobs would be created. More than half of these would be in emerging economies. Additionally, 600 million people would be provided with electricity for the first time. This would close the world’s existing energy access gap by 70%.
Reducing the world’s carbon footprint is the defining challenge of the 21st century. For the next 10 years, modern batteries that are powering the 4th industrial revolution represent the greatest prospect for reducing atmospheric pollution from many of our most energy intensive economic activities.—Dominic Waughray, Head of the Platform for Global Public Goods and Managing Director at the World Economic Forum
Achieving the scale to make these goals achievable requires considerable change, the report finds. First, today’s global battery value chain would have to expand 19 times the size it is today. This would require $550 billion of cumulative investments along the entirety of the value chain over the next 10 years, along with a set of targeted interventions.
Along with the massive expansion of the battery value chain comes a wide array of challenges throughout the value chain. These include:
Battery production has a significant GHG footprint. CO2 emissions during the production of batteries are significant, while the full life cycle emissions of batteries including its use phase are lower compared to traditional vehicles.
The battery value chain has significant social, environmental and integrity risks. The massive expansion of raw material demand, with a near-term focus on cobalt but also on nickel and lithium, will cause the value chain to face social, environmental and integrity risks, involving child labor and potentially forms of forced labor in the cobalt supply chain, unsafe working conditions, local air, water and soil pollution, biodiversity loss and corruption.
The viability of battery-enabled applications is uncertain. Uncertainty regarding infrastructure, technology and consumer preferences poses a significant business risk to the value chain. Automotive OEMs and suppliers have invested more than $100 billion in EVs over the past three years, yet profitability is not yet guaranteed, requiring the rapid introduction of coherent infrastructure and ecosystem. Without it, critical investments in the battery value chain will remain on the sidelines.
We need to develop a sustainable, circular and low carbon value chain for batteries to contribute to the implementation of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals. But this task can only be achieved by effective cooperation between businesses, international organizations, governments and civil society.—Martin Brudermüller, Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of BASF and Co-Chair of the Global Battery Alliance
Second, it would necessitate a huge expansion in mining: annual extraction of minerals by 2030 would weigh more than 300 Great Pyramids of Giza. Some 120 additional battery state-of-the-art factories would also need to be operational to meet required demand.
Most importantly, a structural shift would be required to make batteries sustainable from an environmental and human perspective. This includes making sure the entire value chain is “circular”, whereby batteries are reused, repurposed or recycled at the end of their life cycle or simply used more efficiently.
For example, integrating battery-powered vehicles into the electricity grid at scale could cover 65% of demand for stationary battery storage and enable a higher renewable energy share in power grids globally, the report finds.
Moreover, in 2030 recycling could provide 13% of global demand for cobalt, 5% of nickel and 9% of lithium. These shares are expected to grow as the volume of batteries reaching their end of life surge after 2030.
Furthermore, sustainable business operations must be enabled by boosting the share of renewable energy in the value chain. Finally, a more responsible value chain can be created through better business performance on established sustainability norms backed by traceability systems and effective local interventions to protect human rights, reduce and eliminate child or forced labour and boost local economic value creation. To this end, the Global Battery Alliance will publish and begin implementing in 2019 a roadmap of actions to reduce and eradicate child labor over the coming decade.
The potential for batteries to significantly reduce the world’s carbon footprint, create jobs, improve energy access and working conditions for those working in the industry will not be realized if the value chain develops along its current trajectory, the report finds.
While the battery value chain is expected to grow annually by 25% over the next decade, this level of growth will not be sufficient to help meet the Paris Agreement goals. Without focusing on waste and workers, such uncoordinated growth could even place more environmental and societal strain on our world.
To avoid such an outcome, the Global Battery Alliance calls on all stakeholders to adhere to 10 recommendations aimed at building a circular, sustainable and responsible value chain. The GBA plans to engage all stakeholders to develop an implementation strategy to realize this opportunity.
Analytical support for the report was provided by McKinsey & Company, with additional work carried out on circular economy dimensions by SYSTEMIQ.
First you have to have a "sustainable battery", and second you have to have high short-term savings in fossil fuel emissions from building and using it (a tall order). I am highly skeptical.
"Renewables" require very large batteries for buffering. Decarbonizing e.g. transport using nuclear and small-battery PHEVs would be far less resource-intensive and have a far faster GHG payoff.
Posted by: Engineer-Poet | 20 September 2019 at 05:23 AM
This time I would agree with SAEP that HEVs and PHEVs are currently the easiest (lowest cost) first steps to reduce pollution and GHGs associated with transport vehicles, at least until batteries performances are increased by (3X) and their price is reduced to near $50 and/or below $100/kWh.
Another alternative would be electrified vehicles (starting with larger vehicles) with improved FCs as range extender using clean H2 produced with excess REs.
Posted by: HarveyD | 20 September 2019 at 07:20 AM
Using batteries to electrify transport seems like a good idea, particularly if you go for PHEVs or ICE augmented BEVs. In this way, you can get by with 10-20 KhW / vehicle, rather than the 60+ most pure BEVs seem to require.
Using batteries to load shape renewables on the grid is also a good idea, you should be able to get to 70% renewables (+battery) in this manner. However, going beyond 70% is very difficult unless you have lots of hydro.
There will always be long runs of days when it is neither sunny nor windy, and for these, you will have to fire up dispatchable power. Thus, you'll have to keep nearly 100% dispatchable coverage, even if you only use it a few days a year.
It won't be difficult to do, it will just be expensive.
Forget aviation, unless you consider hybridisation.
Local ferries could be electrified as a ferry can carry a heavy battery load, in the same way an aeroplane can't.
Posted by: mahonj | 20 September 2019 at 07:39 AM
We can have one EV, ten PHEVs, or fourty HEVs with the same batteries.
You have to have many people using them to do some good.
Posted by: SJC | 21 September 2019 at 08:09 AM
We need to stop thinking in terms of kWh for EV, PHEV, and HEV and start looking at Energy Density and Life Cycles.
Look at the 2013 Ford Fusion Energi PHEV for example. It has a 7.5 kWh battery (5.8 kWh usable), weighs 125 kg (46 Wh/kg Energy Density), and 22 mile range.
The Tesla Model 3 has an 80 kWh battery (75 kWh usable) and weighs 478 kg (157 Wh/kg Energy density), and 310 mile range.
The Tesla Model 3 can get at least 1500 cycles or over 450,000 miles. To get that life a Ford Fusion Energi PHEV battery would need over 20,000 cycles (that will not happen).
So if a Lithium battery has a 600 Wh/kg energy density (possible with Conversion Cathodes and Lithium metal Anodes), 99% Recycle rate like the Lead Acid Battery business, and is produced using "non-Coal" grid electricity then you you have a "Sustainable Battery". Note: Conversion Cathode is made from Iron, not Cobalt or Nickel. We have a long way to go yet!
Posted by: Account Deleted | 21 September 2019 at 12:34 PM
The energy produced and/or not produced, by local (REs) large wind mills and solar farms, can easily be forecasted, with enough accuracy and lead time to connect to alternative sources.
Over equipped Hydro plants, with large water reservoirs, can supply replacement clean energy and so could a few million idle EVs (PHEVs, BEVs and FCEVs) if properly connected to the grid.
Alternatively, large FCs and/or large battery banks could also be used on an as required basis.
Better energy production and distribution management will be required.
Posted by: HarveyD | 21 September 2019 at 12:44 PM
Battery storage beyond single-digit hours gets far too costly to be of use, but the counter-cyclic pattern of most "renewables" vs. demand requires storage on the scale of months of demand. This is the whole reason behind the push for hypedrogen; batteries are totally inadequate to the task.
Posted by: Engineer-Poet | 21 September 2019 at 09:06 PM
Near future batteries used in electrified vehicles will be capable of 5,000+ cycles and up to 10,000 cycles with limited charge/discharge rate between 20 to 80 charge.
A few million BEVs/FCEVs could be used to manage some of the variable output from REs if and when properly connected to the grid. That type of remote controlled connection is not costly and could become a source of interesting revenue for e-vehicles owners because they could sell stored energy at very high price and recharge at very low price.
Posted by: HarveyD | 22 September 2019 at 07:40 AM
@EP, I was not suggesting you use batteries for anything other than load shaping. By which I mean buffering the load until a gas (or whatever) generator can be brought on line.
In this scenario, you will want to maintain nearly all your dispatchable (fossil) plant, but only use it occasionally (say if you get a winter calm, where you have no wind for a week in the middle of winter).
Thus, you can keep the lights on, but at a considerable cost in terms of rarely used plant (and plant operators).
Thus, you need (say) 90% coverage with wind, and 90% coverage with solar and 90% coverage with dispatchable (probably gas). If you have hydro or nukes, you can delete this from your 90%'s.
Thus, you can do it, but it'll cost a bundle.
That is why Denmark and Germany (and Ireland) have such expensive electricity.
Posted by: mahonj | 24 September 2019 at 06:31 AM
@ mahonj: Sorry, but you are erring. I don't know why Denmark has such high prices for electricity but I can reveal why the prices are so high in Germany.
There are two well-known reasons for the high prices in Germany.
1) Around 1990 - 1992 the German Parliament passed a new law (EEG) governing compensation for renewable energy. When the law was passed it was ridiculed, scoffed at, and held as a good joke from the four leading power utilities in Germany. After 2 - 3 years had passed, their opinion began to change to anxiety because they were suffering market losses they had never expected. They paid Mrs. Merkel a visit and complained bitterly about their situation. The solution was an amendment to the EEG. Herewith the utilities were entitled to add the difference between the mean compensation price for RE and the existing price for electric power at the exchange in Leipzig to the regular kWh price. The mean compensation price was approx. 27 cents for RE and the price at the Leipzig exchange dangled between 4 and 6 cents. Favorably, based on 6 cents the difference amounts to 21 cents. These are added to the regular bill to compensate those "poor skunks" for their losses. With a regular selling price at 11 cents / kWh plus the 21 cents difference amounts to a total of 32 cents / kWh. Those skunks are collecting 21 cents/kWh for doing absolutely nothing except complaining. I'd expect these kind of politics from Trump or Johnson but not from Germany.
2) All those German enterprises, solely dependent on electric energy and consuming huge amounts of same, are excluded from the burden resulting from the RE compensation. This burden is equally distributed among the rest of the broad public. So now you should truly know why electricity is so expensive at least in Germany.
Posted by: yoatmon | 25 September 2019 at 05:25 AM
Oh yes! I almost forgot. The really perfidious aspect of the amendment of the EEG is that the price of REs are tendentially decreasing. As a result the difference between the exchange price and mean compensation of REs is ever increasing. The rebound-effect is unbelievable. The lower the source price for REs becomes the higher final price will be / kWh on the final bill.
Posted by: yoatmon | 25 September 2019 at 06:11 AM
That's going to be far more economic, but it looks to me as if LAES can take over the role of minutes-to-hours storage leaving batteries with the cycles-to-minutes niche. Highview Power's 10-hour storage system allows more than enough time to bring up a CCGT from cold even if it starts only half-full. That's looking pretty effective as a buffer and GHG-emissions reducer.
Posted by: Engineer-Poet | 25 September 2019 at 05:32 PM
Yes, so? At worst, this should have kept prices stable. However, "renewables" are granted feed-in tariffs far in excess of market rates (paid for by additional charges on the consumer bill) while the regular plants, which are required to keep the grid from blacking out, must still be paid. THAT is why the total bill has gone up so much.
Posted by: Engineer-Poet | 25 September 2019 at 05:33 PM