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Sustainability value chain

Learn about the basic sustainable development idea and sustainable value chain.
Hand tearing the picture of city out of the picture of nice nature view with tre
© Joanna Kulczycha - Mineral and Energy Economy Research Institute

We are now going to look at the basic sustainable development idea and sustainable value chain.

Sustainable development according to Brundtland report was defined as:

‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.

It seeks to reconcile economic development with the protection of social and environmental balance. In 2015, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted. The Agenda is a blueprint for sustainability, eco-innovations, and well-being. The main ideas of the Agenda are to end poverty, improve health and education, reduce inequality, and economic growth, all while tackling climate change.

Batteries are becoming an increasingly important source of both energy and one of the key factors in the green transition. Demand for batteries is expected to grow exponentially in the near future. This relates to the dynamic growth of electric vehicles in road transport and light transportation, that is, the use of batteries for traction purposes.

As a result of the mass migration from fossil fuel energy to electricity, the battery market is becoming strategic at the global level, and the demand for issuing batteries, both for transportation and industrial applications, will grow at an accelerating rate. In addition, ongoing advances and innovations in battery technology must be taken into account.

In order to ensure legal certainty for all stakeholders and avoid barriers and discrimination in trade (in line with GATT and WTO rules), it is necessary to define regulations on performance, safety, and recycling parameters for both economic operators and consumers. To meet these needs, the European Parliament is working on new legislation to harmonize the regulatory framework for handling batteries, as well as to address related environmental, ethical, and social issues.

It needs to be emphasised that batteries are hazardous waste. There are chemical processes in batteries involving toxic elements such as cadmium, lead, mercury and also acids/acids that are corrosive and can cause corrosion. In one ton of batteries, there are about 3 kilograms of mercury, 0.5 kilogram of cadmium, as well as several kilograms of lithium and nickel.

The following table shows the battery types and their use in different applications:

A table concerning the battery types and their use in different applicationsClick to expand

In 2006, Directive 2006/66/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on batteries and accumulators and waste batteries and waste accumulators was adopted. The law imposed a whole range of obligations on EU member states to minimize the negative environmental impact of used batteries, as well as accumulators.

Under this legislation, member states undertook to introduce a system for the collection and disposal of waste batteries, which is based on the “polluter pays” principle. This system was aimed at creating conditions for consumers to be easily accessible, as well as free of charge, donation of waste batteries, as well as accumulators, at specific locations. Moreover, the directive introduced an obligation to monitor collection levels of waste portable batteries and waste portable accumulators, as well as an obligation to report on the collection levels achieved within six months of the end of the calendar year in question.

Batteries are the most expensive component of electric vehicles, which after about 8 to 10 years, lose their performance. Batteries play a crucial role in the implementation of the EU Green Deal. According to estimates, some 30 million zero-emission electric vehicles are expected to be on EU roads by 2030. On the one hand, vehicles are expected to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but there is also a significant concern about batteries, which can become harmful to the environment.

Batteries are considered a critical and strategic technology for achieving Europe’s climate change mitigation goals and the transition to clean and sustainable mobility. Batteries can serve multiple purposes; global demand for batteries is expected to increase more than 19 times over the next decade from current levels. If batteries are to help combat climate change, this cannot be achieved without fundamentally changing the way materials are sourced and the technology is produced and used. That is why the sustainable battery’s value chain gains high importance. This will be discussed in the following parts of the course.

© Joanna Kulczycha - Mineral and Energy Economy Research Institute
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Batteries for the Energy Transition: Exploring the Sustainable Value Chain

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