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The energy transition requires batteries and more batteries – pv magazine USA

A recent IEA report shows that China has an edge in chemistry and manufacturing.

It is almost impossible to calculate how much developed countries have invested in the so-called transition from fossil fuels to non-carbon sources such as renewables and nuclear power, with enormous political pressure on the former. This is probably the largest bet in the history of mankind. The transformation is only in its early stages and the implications for energy policy and infrastructure are already enormous.

While the viability of these investments has yet to be determined, one aspect of the transition has become clear: moving away from baseload energy generation towards intermittent sources such as solar and wind generation will require massive increases in long-term energy storage capacity beyond traditional physical means. such as water pumps and flywheels. In the case of renewable energy sources, the killer application is battery storage.

This is true on a global scale.

The International Energy Agency (IEA), a global organization that monitors energy policy and technology development for governments and industry, published a report stating that batteries are absolutely essential to the energy transition and are the fastest-growing energy technology, in 2003, when the latest data was compiled .

More specifically, the biggest area of ​​growth was battery storage for the energy sector, with deployment more than doubling compared to 2022. The report indicated that this growth was strong across all generation categories: utility-scale battery projects, behind-the-meter storage, mini-grids and residential photovoltaic systems. Together, these applications added 42 GW of battery capacity globally, according to the report.

While consumer demand and other applications remain strong, the IEA said 90% of annual demand for lithium-ion batteries in 2023 will come from the energy sector. This is up from 50% in 2016, when the total lithium-ion battery market was 10 times smaller. The report pointed out that despite demand, capacity and supply chains for lithium-ion batteries have increased to keep pace with demands.

According to the IEA, the increase in sales of electric vehicles has not reduced the availability of lithium-ion batteries for other sectors. The report shows that almost all batteries used in electric vehicles are lithium-ion batteries.

The only drawback is that while demand for batteries for energy storage and electric vehicles is essentially global in developed countries, the supply of dominant lithium-ion batteries is highly concentrated.

The report says:

Although the global battery supply chain is complex, each step in the supply chain – from the extraction of mineral ores to the use of high-quality chemicals to produce the battery components in the final battery pack – is characterized by a high degree of geographic concentration. Battery manufacturers depend on a small number of countries for raw materials and the extraction of many key minerals. China accounts for well over half of global processing of lithium and cobalt raw materials and has almost 85% of the world’s battery cell production capacity. Europe, the United States and Korea each currently hold 10% or less of the supply chain for some metals and battery cells.

Photo: CC BY 4.0.

The West’s attitude towards the energy transition is almost entirely dependent on China.

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