Posted on 28 Nov 2023
The UK government published on Sunday its long-awaited Battery Strategy, proposing a three-point approach to making the country a “world leader” in sustainable design, manufacture and use of batteries.
The strategy is based around the Design-Build-Sustain approach, generally set to support innovation across the battery value chain, drive up investment in manufacturing capacity and maintain attractiveness with proportionate regulations.
The government says it will explore innovative financing mechanisms to support scale ups and maintain safety and product standards. Additionally, it will also work closely with the domestic industry and international partners to secure a UK battery manufacturing supply chain, ensuring competitive green energy supply, quicker grid connections and faster planning and permitting processes.
Upcoming work will also include reducing barriers on green trade, facilitating the skills needed for the battery sector and exploring “pro-growth regulation and industry standards” to incentivise investment in the circular economy.
The government says its different departments will explore “a range of policy options” to deliver against its priorities. The strategy notes the £2 billion ($2.52 billion) of new capital and R&D funding for five years to 2030, recently announced to support zero-emission vehicles, batteries and their supply chains. This funding was announced under the £4.5 billion Advanced Manufacturing Plan (AMP).
The strategy then earmarks £61 million in future investment in the sector. Of which, £38m to enhance the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (UKBIC) development facilities; £12m to build a new battery materials scale up facility in the West Midlands and North East; and £11m in technology funding.
“The government’s 2030 vision is for the UK to have a globally competitive battery supply chain that supports economic prosperity and the net zero transition,” the strategy states.
Currently, the UK produces around 2 gigawatt-hours of battery cells. This is set to grow to 52 GWh by 2030 with two new gigafactories – one under construction and another planned, Kallanish notes.
A successful domestic battery industry would support 100,000 jobs by 2040 – 35,000 in cell manufacturing and 65,000 in the battery supply chain –, the government estimates. These would be “highly paid” jobs – from mining to processing and manufacturing to recycling. According to the strategy, the UK automotive industry, which currently employs 166,000 workers, has a wage premium of around £4,500 compared to the whole economy.
Reacting to the news, industry players welcomed the strategy, but also noted the need for more to be done if the UK is to succeed in the global battery race.
Cornish Lithium’s ceo Jeremy Wrathall described the strategy as “a major step forward” for the UK battery and associated critical minerals strategy. In agreement, Richard Taylor, founder of Green Lithium, adds “the government deserves recognition for listening to the industry and providing support to scale up different sections of the battery supply chain.”
However, Jonathan Carrier, ceo of battery storage start-up Allye, argues the strategy doesn’t do enough for start-ups and is too heavily geared towards the EV sector. “If we don’t fund early on, there won’t be the start-ups to support as they scale, which the report outlines. The UK government’s wish to identify new funding mechanisms for start-ups will come as too little too late when those companies need support now.”
For Ben Nelmes, ceo of transport research organisation New Automotive, “ministers will have to do better if they want to secure Britain’s place as a major battery manufacturing nation,” as the strategy fails to match the scale of spending and regulation strength in Europe or North America.
Meanwhile, Julia Poliscanova, senior director at T&E, says “the UK and the rest of Europe must join forces and form a strategic battery alliance to compete in a fierce global clean tech race.”
Calling on businesses in the battery sector to support the delivery of the strategy, the government says it’s committed to ongoing engagement with industry. Different arms of government are also now engaging to agree an “action log” to manage its delivery.