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EU warned on picking ‘winners’ for new battery research cash

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 15:15 -- John Shepherd
EU warned on picking ‘winners’ for new battery research cash

EU leaders have been warned against ignoring lead-acid technology when selecting battery “winners” and bestowing alternative chemistries with millions of euros in fresh funding for advanced battery research.

The warning from the Advanced Lead Acid Battery Consortium (ALABC) came as the European Commission revealed plans to launch a EUR1bn ($1.1bn) “Future Emerging Technologies Flagship initiative”— to support long-term research in advanced battery technologies for a 10-year period from 2025.

The Commission— which has put lithium-based batteries at the core of its European Batteries Alliance initiative over lead— said the “preparatory phase” for funding allocations should be completed by the fourth quarter of 2018.

But the ALABC’s Dr Alistair Davidson has issued an early warning to the EU against “picking winners and risking putting all its eggs in one basket”.

Davidson told BBB: “We’ve argued strongly that there should be a level playing field for lead technologies. Innovation in lead battery technology must be included in the European action plan for batteries, as lead-based products, as well as other chemistries, will be critical in providing energy storage to support electrification, renewables and decarbonisation targets.”

The ALABC is developing a new technical roadmap that will support future bids for the funding announced by the Commission, Davidson added.

Meanwhile, the Commission has admitted it could launch “anti-dumping and/or anti-subsidy investigations” against countries outside the EU— “to tackle unfair practices such as the subsidisation of raw materials or other production inputs”. 

The CEO of German company TerraE Holding Holger Gritzka, whose company is part of the European Batteries Alliance, told BBB he supported EU action against unfair battery trading “only in the case of tremendous subsidies by a foreign country”.

“At the end of the day we have to be competitive anyway. I prefer worldwide free competition,” Gritzka said.

News that the Commission could trigger a battery trade war with Asian and other nations, to protect the EU’s fledgling investments in cell making, was revealed exclusively in the Spring 2018 issue of BBB’s sister publication— Batteries & Energy Storage Technology (BEST) magazine. 

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