23 September 2019 - Dr Alistair Davidson

Lead batteries are vital to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

Lead batteries are vital to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

As nations meet this week at the 2019 Climate Action Summit at the United Nations in New York, they will chart progress in the global effort to tackle climate change.

Businesses and many other interest groups are also working together to find sustainable solutions to the climate crisis – and the lead and lead battery industries are at the forefront of these efforts.

As countries move towards a low carbon future with greater electrification supported by cleaner and more sustainable practices, we will see more power generated using renewable energy, increased uptake of electric vehicles, and higher rates of recycling and reusing materials adopting circular economy principles.

But where do we fit into the achievement of these goals? And how can we propel the efforts of our industries to ensure the continued drive towards a future with affordable, clean energy storage and meaningful action to help tackle climate change?

As an adaptable material, lead is vital in a range of diverse applications, many of which are critical to products and systems we rely on every day. It is an enabler of technologies such as solar panels, wind farms and batteries which are vital to the generation and storage of power from renewables. With the growing urgency to achieve clean energy ambitions, where 80% of the global electricity mix is predicted to be renewables by 2050, lead’s role is set to become ever more important.

This week’s meetings at Climate Week NYC 2019, where the UN Secretary-General António Guterres will host the 2019 Climate Action Summit, will be followed by the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact Summit.

Tied into the discussions occurring during events throughout Climate Week NYC 2019 are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their progress since adoption by UN Member States in 2015. Of particular importance to climate discussions to be held during the Climate Action Summit are, SDGs #7: affordable and clean energy, and #13: climate action.

In the upcoming decade, 2,366GW of power capacity will be installed globally, with solar accounting for the largest single share at 638GW. Solar panels are essential for the generation of power from the sun’s energy and are used across the globe from small-scale installations providing affordable electricity for isolated communities to immense solar farms powering cities.

Lead-solder coated PV ribbons are used globally in energy storage projects

Bloomberg Energy predicts investment in renewables capacity to be a staggering $13 trillion by 2050, 40% of which will be in wind energy. Offshore wind farms, which generate huge amounts of electricity, are connected to the grid via sub-sea cables. These are lead-sheathed to make them both robust, effective conductors and long-lasting. 

Lead-sheathed sub-sea cables are vital for offshore wind farms

The continuing growth in renewable sources of energy, with capacity predicted to quadruple from 414GW to 1,650GW by the end of 2019, doesn’t come without its challenges. Natural sources of energy face the challenge of intermittency. This has led to the greater role of energy storage technologies where power generated during the day from wind or solar is stored for use when demand peaks and prices are lower.  

Lead batteries are optimized to be able to support energy storage projects at mass-market scale. Reliable, robust and the most cost-effective, lead battery technology is enabling communities across the world to access affordable and clean energy. Lead batteries support the reliable and uninterrupted use of power needed to fully embrace the age of renewable energy.

They account for over 70% of the world’s rechargeable battery energy storage and are facilitating increased mobility electrification as a vital component in hybrid and electric vehicles, and even in EV charging stations. The importance of batteries for enabling the energy storage revolution is clear from the growing global investment in batteries for renewable capacity, predicted to be $843 billion by 2050.

Lead batteries are vital to energy storage projects across the globe. Photo credit: NorthStar Battery

A recent report by The Sustainability Consortium recognised that lead batteries set the gold standard in terms of achieving circular economy goals, especially as the growth for electric vehicles, energy storage and zero waste continues. In Europe and North America, where greater uptake in clean mobility is increasing the need for lead batteries, 99% are collected and recycled at end-of-life. More than 80% of a new lead battery is made of recycled material, and lead itself is an infinitely recyclable material, without losing any quality or performance characteristics.

As climate action remains on the forefront of political, economic and societal discussion, the bid by nations to adopt sustainable, circular economy practices and to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and wasting resources must continue.

As an industry, we’re proud to be implementing and promoting sustainable practices to ensure lead continues to play a crucial role in achieving a low carbon future.

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