US Secretary of Energy speaks of urgent demand for battery manufacturing chain

June 18, 2021

At a roundtable discussion that included Congressional as well as industry representatives, U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm spoke about the urgent and growing need to create an advanced battery manufacturing value chain within the United States.

The event was attended by Secretary Granholm, along with Congressman Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District. Industry representatives from six private companies with a stake in the battery energy storage space also spoke briefly before answering questions from the Department of Energy (DOE) chief.

Energy Storage News reported that the event was hosted and presented by Kelly Speakes-Backman, the former CEO of the national Energy Storage Association, now the acting assistant secretary and principal deputy secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy at the DOE.
During the event, Granholm, said that with technology being central to 21st Century life, lithium batteries are essential components for the clean energy transition, job creation, industrial competitiveness and the fight against climate change.

With the U.S. targeting 100 percent clean electricity by 2035, the demand for clean energy technologies is growing. The major concern is that China is currently the only country in the world which has control over every tier of the supply chain for critical materials — including lithium.
China has 80 percent of the world’s raw material refining capacity.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates the need for lithium will increase by up to 70 times over the next 20 years.

Fitch Solutions projects that for every 1 million electric vehicles on the road, the electric vehicle market will need 60,000 tons of lithium. At that rate, the world will need between 2 and 5 million tons of high-grade lithium over the next five to 10 years.

Current production is estimated to be only around 82,000 tons annually worldwide – a small fraction of what will be needed.

If the U.S. remains reliant on imports, the country will be unable to compete in the global market for clean energy technologies, which Granholm said will be a market worth at least US$23 trillion by the end of the 2020s.

The recently released Federal Consortium for Advanced Batteries (FCAB) ‘National blueprint for lithium batteries 2021-2030’ sets out a whole of government approach for shoring up domestic battery production. This includes strategies for building out the domestic supply chain and Granholm called for national effort in U.S. policy, alongside “ingenuity and major investments” to start making batteries using U.S. labor.

Granholm also announced that the DOE’s 17 National Laboratories and DOE partnerships will receive US$200 million funding over the next five years for EVs and batteries to complement US$62 million pledged in April to support vehicle electrification. Also on the table is a US$4 million prize through the Department’s geothermal office to support lithium extraction processes using geothermal industry assets.

The Biden Administration’s American Jobs Plan will also put millions behind lithium batteries, mineral extraction and more.
Granholm said that the challenge is “big and urgent” and the U.S. needs all of the help it can get to succeed. She said a big private-partnership announcement on the lithium battery supply chain is imminent.

 

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