Japanese lithium-ion battery manufacturers such as GS Yuasa and possibly Panasonic are eyeing sites in the UK to serve a perceived growing energy storage market, according to S&C Electric Europe.
GS Yuasa’s subsidiary Yuasa Battery Europe has a lead-acid battery manufacturing plant in Ebbw Vale.
Andrew Jones, managing director of energy storage system integrator S&C Electric Europe, said: “Yuasa is considering setting up lithium-ion manufacturing at its Ebbw Vale (in Wales) for energy storage, partly driven by demand for electric vehicle batteries too.”
Jones hinted that other Japanese lithium giants are also eyeing sites in the UK. “Yuasa are not the only ones, there are others from that part of the world too,” he told BEST.
“I have made representations to the UK Government that if it wants to develop the supply chain and create UK jobs, there are major [battery] manufacturers interesting in investing, but they need clear market signals. They don’t necessarily want tax or capital cost incentives, they want to know there will be a long-term market.
“A number of major manufacturers said they would set up manufacturing. Some are looking at full-scale production including cells, some are looking at packs.”
Panasonic could be one to watch. Although it closed its white goods factory in Newport in 2012, Panasonic is to establish a £2m ($3.4m) fuel cell R&D facility in the Welsh capital, Cardiff.
However, Jones said the UK faced stiff competition from Germany and Italy to host Asian lithium-ion battery manufacturing facilities.
“There are major lithium-ion manufacturers currently trying to decide whether to set up manufacturing in the UK, Germany and Italy,” he said. “Everyone is convinced these are the three countries where energy storage will explode.
“Italy has historical issues about how to do business. Germany is more sensible and the market may break there first, but the UK has the right economic conditions and lower labour costs.”
Jones called upon the UK Government to adopt the Electricity Storage Association’s target of 2GW of storage by 2020. “If the Government adopted the target by 2020 or, say, 2025, it would create a £2-3bn market in the UK and investment would appear very quickly.
“The Government’s responsibility is not to put in lots of funding to prove the technology – it’s already proven. If it puts in place the right market signals and aspirational targets, the companies will invest.”