Sustainability is the word on everyone’s lips, and it means more than simply reducing emissions. To be sustainable requires taking into account the environmental, economic, and social dimension of the entire value chain. Solar is the most sustainable energy source not just because of its low carbon footprint, but also because it leads to increased energy self-sufficiency, and is highly job-intensive, creating more jobs per installed watt than any other power generation source.
The solar industry aims to strengthen its leadership on the sustainability front, and the ambitious European Green Deal provides the perfect framework to cement sustainability as a guiding principle. We take this occasion to shine a spotlight on companies leading the charge with sustainability efforts. Our latest sustainability champion is Gert Meylemans, Director Communications & Stewardship at EUROBAT, the Association of European Automotive and Industrial Battery Manufacturers. He speaks to us about batteries, automobiles, and more.
1. What does sustainability mean to you?
Before joining EUROBAT my entire professional life was in the automotive sector, both for OEMs and suppliers. Throughout the years, I witnessed massive changes and I do not think there is any other industry with the same visibility as the automotive industry that has made more progress on improving sustainability. There is still a lot of work to be done, but I think there is a common understanding on how to move forward and an understanding that there is no way back, which I fully support. Working at EUROBAT, I realise now how much batteries can indeed contribute to achieving Europe’s target of a zero-emission society by 2050, both for e-mobility and (clean) energy storage.
2. What does your company do to support sustainability in solar?
EUROBAT unifies members from both the automotive and industrial battery sectors, and represents all technologies: lead-, lithium-, nickel- and sodium-based. They are all complementary as each chemical has its own strength. Linked to a specific application, they all contribute to the decarbonisation of Europe, especially connected to renewables such as wind and solar. On the latter, we have seen a big boost of energy storage batteries connected to PV in the last couple of years, both for households and businesses. And of course, solar and energy storage batteries are the perfect fit for off-grid solutions for telecom or back-up energy storage in remote areas such as is in Africa.
In the “EUROBAT 2030 Innovation Roadmap”, presented last year, we clearly indicated that all battery technologies will further evolve in the coming years to continue serving the various applications, which are becoming increasingly complex and demanding. And energy storage batteries, linked to solar, are no exception to that.
3. Which sustainability areas do you focus on, and why?
Batteries are, generally speaking, considered by EU policy-makers to be “crucial in the battle against global warming”. Our members produce both automotive and industrial batteries. As we know that transport is responsible for more than 20% of the GHG emissions in Europe, a lot of focus has been put on electrification of mobility and the role batteries play. But energy storage batteries also help boost the impact of renewable energy, such as solar and wind.
EUROBAT members are also constantly monitoring how, for example, to make their own production and logistics greener. Deploying large PV on their installations is often a part of the solution. On top of decarbonisation, our members also increasingly focus on due diligence, sustainable corporate governance, and material stewardship.
4. How does sustainability impact your day-to-day job?
Well, batteries have literally been the “talk of the town” for the last four years! Frankly, because of the nature of the product, there is no single day where “sustainability” or “environment” are not being discussed, either internally or with our external stakeholders. Not only our members increasingly focus on sustainability when designing or producing their products, but policy-makers do too. The all-encompassing Batteries Regulation, which was published last year, is a good example of that. But also in the media, there is literally no day without a big battery-related feature. The public at large has also become more and more interested in batteries, be it related to e-mobility or to energy storage for their PV systems. As a communicator, that evolution makes it both very interesting and challenging at the same time!
5. How can Europeans get involved to make their lives and the continent more sustainable?
As mentioned before, I believe the awareness and understanding of the topic is really sinking in with a wider audience. But we are not there yet, so initiatives and guidance from policy-makers, such as the Green Deal, are much needed. The EU battery industry is very innovative and dedicated and will do what it takes to deliver the appropriate products, both for automotive and industrial applications. It is clear that some challenges, such as infrastructure, still lay ahead of us. Legislation also plays a key role and therefore the Batteries Regulation, which is currently on the table, is of critical importance. EUROBAT is actively contributing to the process, to ensure green and sustainable batteries are made in the EU. For more information on our view on the Batteries Regulation, visit the dedicated page on our website.
Photo Credit: EUROBAT