Batteries will be indispensable for the green energy transition and the achievement of the Paris goals. Throughout its full lifecycle – from raw material, to production processes, use and recycling – the battery value chain has the potential for both harm and good. The GBA seeks to identify and address harmful risks, and maximize the potential of batteries to spur sustainable development.
Access to clean, reliable electricity is one of the greatest challenges to sustainable development in Africa, with nearly 550 million people lacking access to electricity and an additional 150 million facing unreliable connections. Batteries are crucial to supporting Africa’s energy access goals, through the increase in production of batteries for battery-solar systems, and as part of microgrids and off-grid solutions, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where energy infrastructure is lacking. Improvements in energy access over the next decade will drive an estimated seven- to fourteen-fold increase in stationary battery capacity in the region, to 83 GWh. Meeting this growing battery demand with lower economic, environmental and human costs will require high-quality recycling and repurposing – which in turn will also create employment and upskilling opportunities.
One in three children globally suffer from lead poisoning as a result of inadequate lead-acid battery recycling. Lead poisoning is responsible for a reduction of 2 percent of GDP in Asia and 4 percent in Africa due to the long-term brain damage impacts that reduce lifetime earnings, productivity and entrepreneurship. Lead-acid batteries will continue to be used well into the future – in electric vehicles for starter, light and ignition functions; off-grid renewable energy storage systems; data centers and industrial applications. The unregulated disposal and informal recycling of lead-acid batteries pose far-reaching social, environmental and public health challenges that require a concerted global effort to ensure responsible end-of-life management. The Global Battery Alliance is committed to addressing these issues through current initiatives focused on government regulation and practical implementation of a responsible and circular battery value chain.
Recycling is costly and complex. The processes involved in battery recycling – including the recovery of valuable raw materials – can pose significant health and safety hazards (risk of fire and high toxicity). Even when done safely, the process of recycling components can also emit substantial greenhouse gases and pollutants into water and air. Once on the market, recycled/second-life batteries will need to compete with newer, more technologically advanced models. The GBA is committed to promoting circular design improvements; harmonization of national and international rules to improve lifecycle management and end-of-life treatment; and improving the enabling environment to provide market incentives toward circularity.