March 16, 2023: EU leaders and battery industry chiefs have agreed to expand funding to support gigafactory projects and speed-up permitting processes, amid fears that investors are being lured away from Europe by lucrative tax breaks and incentives in the US and Asia.
European Commission vice president and batteries czar Maroš Šefčovič chaired a crisis summit of the European Battery Alliance (EBA) on March 6, where it was agreed new measures were needed as part of an “emergency toolbox” in the face of incentives being offered under the US Inflation Reduction Act and “other recent challenges”.
The meeting came after the EBA unveiled proposals last December in a €100 billion ($106 billion) bid to avert a potential investments meltdown for EU battery gigafactory plans — and a subsequent warning by Commission president, Ursula von der Lyen, of tough action against China and other countries engaged in aggressive moves to lure industrial projects including battery manufacturing away from Europe.
Priorities agreed at the EBA meeting included the acceleration and predictability of industrial permitting, enhanced access to both EU and national funding and boosting skills and training for Europe’s battery industry workforce.
The EBA also supported recent measures announced by the Commission, in line with the European Green Deal Industrial Plan, to “accelerate and de-risk investments across the value chain” and level the playing field with global competition.
On permitting, Umicore CEO Mathias Miedreich said the EU faced a significant disadvantage in industrial permitting, detrimentally impacting time to market.
“By comparison,” he said. “it can take around nine months in Canada compared to double or more in the EU to obtain permits for a comparable battery materials facility.”
Volkswagen’s group board member for technology Thomas Schmall told the meeting, Europe needed an immediate Inflation Reduction Act “matching clause” as part of a revised public state aid program for EU member states.
He said this must be accompanied by competitive prices for sustainable energy, adding “speed above all is what we most need”.
The EBA now proposes to set six-month limits for gigafactory-related project permits to be handed out.
The meeting also called for batteries to be prioritized for funding under new state aid rules to support competitive industrial operations in the battery sector.
Paolo Cerruti, co-founder of Swedish gigafactory developer Northvolt, said: “We see a real opportunity for a European Inflation Reduction Act to stimulate a virtuous circle of investment, which will increase regional content and enable a decarbonized supply chain.”
Šefčovič said: “In 2022, total investment in the EU’s battery ecosystem topped €180 billion ($190 billion). But we see that other economies have also set their sights firmly on boosting the production of batteries, incentivizing the battery and raw materials boom — while in some instances, altering the global playing field.
“This new reality, combined with the higher price of gas in the EU, naturally affect Europe’s competitiveness and remind us that we must stay laser-focused on supporting investment.”
Batteries International reported on March 9 of fresh warnings that nearly 70% of Europe’s overall planned pipeline of lithium ion battery cells production capacity by 2030 was at risk of being delayed, scaled down or cancelled.