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EU Batteries Regulation introduces ‘ground-breaking reform’ to meet Green Deal aims

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Regulation governing the production, sale and use of batteries in the European Union (EU) came into force last month, with energy storage industry associations welcoming their introduction.

The EU Batteries Regulation replaces the bloc’s existing directive which has been in place since 2006, largely before the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) and then battery energy storage system (BESS) technology.

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As reported by Energy-Storage.news as conversations and legislative adoption progressed, the new rules include requirements for carbon footprint labelling, health and safety labels, ethical sourcing and minimum levels of resource recovery and use of recycled content as well as limits on potentially harmful, scarce or otherwise problematic materials.

It also introduces what is thought to be a first-of-its-kind system in the EU for labelling and tracking, a sort of digital passport for batteries which will attach QR codes to materials and components. This is aimed at increasing transparency and accountability in the supply chain and in production.

European Union parliamentarians voted to adopt the regulation by 587 votes to nine, with 20 abstentions, in June. It then came into force on 17 August and has been considered a key part of aligning European industry interests with the European Green Deal.

The European Association for Storage of Energy (EASE), told Energy-Storage.news that the new regulation coming into force is a “significant step forward for the energy storage sector”.

“Battery energy storage systems (BESS) play a crucial role in facilitating the energy transition. When utilised for behind-the-meter solutions, BESS empower citizens and reduce energy costs for industries. Additionally, when deployed front-of-the-meter, BESS maximise the integration of renewable energy sources and contribute to the establishment of a more resilient, sustainable, and efficient power grid,” EASE said.

“The new Batteries Regulation aligns with these goals by promoting the development of safe, environmentally friendly, and competitive batteries.”

The rules apply to every stakeholder defined as an ‘economic operator’ of batteries placed in the EU market. That means all manufacturers, producers, importers and distributors, extending to all batteries sold within the bloc.

The new directive is being introduced in phases. Economic operators’ obligations under it start to apply from 18 August 2025, a year after coming into force, while end-of-life management rules must be complied with from the same date a year later.

Meanwhile recycling requirements and carbon footprint labelling rules gradually become more stringent from 2026-2027, and then will be up for reassessment in 2030.

Some commentators had previously said that, if introduced wrongly, the regulation could hamper European industrial competitiveness. On the flipside, some have also said that introducing rules on circular economy and environmental principles, among others, could be a key differentiator for European-made products. That level of transparency could also serve to help assure customers on the quality of products.

Trade association EASE said the carbon footprint labelling requirements would for example help customers understand vendors’ value proposition.

“EASE is expecting the introduction of a carbon footprint calculation that accurately reflects battery energy storage’s unique characteristics and values for the performance and durability of batteries to truly reflect their overall quality, efficiency, safety, and economic value,” EASE said.

The association also applauded the inclusion of provisions for end-of-life treatment of batteries, as well as for the ‘second life’ repurposing of batteries to serve other applications once their initial life is expended.

Various examples can be found around the world of second life EV batteries being put to use in less demanding BESS applications, most recently with Jaguar Land Rover and Volkswagen subsidiary Elli among new market entrants to that space.

“This legislation offers much-needed legal clarity and guidance to industry stakeholders, enabling them to effectively manage BESS at the end of their operational life,” according to EASE.

Flow batteries included

The regulation was first proposed in 2020 and has undergone a few iterations and refinements ahead of where it is today.

One interesting change from the original form it took in 2022 discussions is the inclusion of flow batteries. In draft proposals, the legislation had centred only on battery devices with internal storage such as lithium-ion, and flow batteries had been left out. FBE had advocated for this to change which was later incorporated.

“Flow Batteries Europe (FBE) was particularly pleased to see that the policymakers took their call to uphold the technology-neutrality principle seriously and included flow batteries within the scope of the key sustainability provisions of the Battery Regulation,” industry group Flow Batteries Europe (FBE) said.

“The inclusion of flow batteries in the new legislation allows for a more comprehensive comparison of energy storage technologies without disincentivising the use of flow batteries for energy storage applications.”

According to FBE, customers of flow batteries had already been requesting a lot of the information on “carbon footprint calculation, safety, supply chain due diligence, and other details” of their technology.

“Harmonising these rules makes it easier to streamline the flow battery industry’s practices, enhance transparency across the market, and foster the development of cutting-edge, sustainable energy storage solutions that contribute to a greener and more efficient future energy landscape,” the organisation said.

The EU’s full legal text of the regulation can be found here.

Passport

Energy-Storage.news asked the Battery Pass Consortium – convened to design, deliver and implement the Batteries Regulation’s digital passport – for its comments on the rules and their imminent introduction.

“It is a ground-breaking reform on the EU internal market as it covers the entire life cycle of batteries and mandates the first digital product passport,” project coordinator Tilmann Vahle, who is also director of sustainable mobility and batteries at innovation consultancy Systemiq, told Energy-Storage.news.

It isn’t just the first digital product passport (DPP) for batteries, it’s also the first-ever DPP for any product in Europe, meaning its progress will be of interest to other industries where similar schemes could also apply.

The Battery Passport will be required from February 2027 onwards, for all industrial batteries as well as for BESS over 2kWh capacity.

“Depending on the battery type, around 90 data attributes will need to be included in the battery passport and accessible by a pre-defined access group,” Vahle said, noting that these include the public, persons with a legitimate interest, market surveillance bodies and more.

The Battery Pass Consortium was brought together by the German Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK). Its first content guidance was published in April this year, alerting stakeholders to what sort of metrics and data will need to be provided.

The consortium has previously emphasised that the industry needs to act early to get on board with the new pass scheme, which Tilmann Vahle reiterated, saying that the industry should understand the requirements as applicable to their own business or products, while noting that the consortium is now working to update its guidance to reflect the final text of the adopted Batteries Regulation.

Data attributes span the following categories, Tilmann Vahle said:

  • General battery and manufacturer information
  • Compliance, label and certifications
  • Battery carbon footprint
  • Supply chain due diligence
  • Battery materials and composition
  • Circularity and resource efficiency
  • Performance and durability

Carbon footprint methodologies

Some of the regulation and how it will be implemented is something of a work in progress. Battery Pass Consortium’s Tilmann Vahle said it is “developing a technical guidance and demonstrator as well as assessing the value of the battery passport by evaluating use cases along the value chain,” with more to come on that expected in March 2024.

Both trade groups, EASE and FBE, said that carbon footprint accounting, tracing and reporting methodologies still need to be perfected.

EASE said it is committed to supporting policymakers on delegated acts,” with an immediate focus on refining those carbon footprint methodologies, while FBE said it helps engage and advise policymakers “on what constitutes a practical and effective methodology for carbon footprint calculation and verification,” as well as closely following the work of the EU’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), which is working on determining the most suitable approach to it.

“By actively participating in these consultations and discussions, Flow Batteries Europe aims to ensure that the eventual guidelines align with industry realities and promote accurate, comparable, and meaningful carbon footprint data,” FBE said.

“The Batteries Regulation is a comprehensive piece of legislation, which will ensure the social and environmental sustainability of batteries in the coming decades.”

Energy-Storage.news’ publisher Solar Media will host the 9th annual Energy Storage Summit EU in London, 21-22 February 2024. This year it is moving to a larger venue, bringing together Europe’s leading investors, policymakers, developers, utilities, energy buyers and service providers all in one place. Visit the official site for more info.

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