Several Companies Build Low Carbon Battery Factories Save The Earth From Global Warming

Several Companies Build Low Carbon Battery Factories Save The Earth From Global Warming

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Just 125 miles south of the Artic Circle,  here in the small Swedish town of Skelleftea, lies one of Europe’s most cherished hopes  for the future: a low-carbon battery maker. But where is it going to make its next  big investment? The U.S. or Europe? Northvolt produces batteries that  are mostly used in electric cars, some of its most important buyers  include Volkswagen, BMW and Scania.

Its aim is to produce the cleanest batteries. That’s why it uses local sources of renewable  energy, such as wind and hydropower, to do so. Northvolt says its batteries have  a carbon footprint 80% lower than   those made using electricity  from coal-fired power stations. This is one typical prismatic cell.

Peter Carlsson is the  founder and CEO of Northvolt. He was previously the global head of  sourcing and supply chain at Tesla. Northvolt is a European battery and energy storage  developer, we started in the beginning of 2016   with the aim of building a really, really  green sustainable battery set up in Europe. Behind us, we are building Revolt Ett. Ett is one in Swedish. It is perhaps the largest  recycling facility in Europe.

The aim here that we in 7-8 years we should be   having 50% of our materials  coming from recycled cells. This plant is the size of about 71 soccer pitches   and employs about 1,500 out  of Northvolt’s 4,000 workers. Northvolt had plans to open a  similar facility in Germany in 2025,   which would have created about 3,000 new jobs. Looking at some of the investment  decisions from Northvolt, you recently decided to press pause  on opening a new factory in Germany. This was announced in October 2022. We haven’t pressed pause.

We recognize that the  site here at a certain point probably 2025-2026,   we will have built out this  to its maximum capacity. We are working on a second factory together with   Volvo cars in Gothenburg but we  found a spot in northern Germany. But we have also been clear that in order   to put a real large amount of investments  into the facilities and the equipment we need to find a solution with different  stakeholders including the German government. So, you still intend to open a factory in Germany? Absolutely.

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There is a lot of controversy on  whether you are actually going to   invest in the U.S. before you  open this factory in Germany. What can you tell us about that? What I can see is that, whilst we  have been doing this in Germany, we have also been working on a  North American plant and with IRA   that plan kind got turbo boosted  given the very strong incentives. At this stage, if you compare the development   in Germany and the development in North  America, which one will be ready first? That’s a good question, I pass on that. It’s not just Northvolt that is  reconsidering upcoming investments   and deciding whether to press ahead  with American versus European expansion.

Volkswagen, the German car manufacturer,  Enel the Italian energy firm, chemical giant Solvay and Spain’s  Iberdrola just to name a few have expressed their interest in what the U.S.  is doing after a landmark announcement last year. A survey of Finnish businesses showed almost 20% of them were thinking about  shifting their investments to the U.S. All of these investments decisions  were shaken up by President Joe Biden, who last year unveiled the U.S. Inflation  Reduction Act, often shortened to IRA, and promised more than 300 billion  dollars in climate and energy policies. One practical example of the IRA in  action involves buying an electric car.  

If you live in America and you want to buy a  new electric car, you’ll likely benefit from a tax credit if you choose a model where 40%  of the critical mineral and battery components were sourced from America or a country  with a U.S. free-trade agreement. Naturally, American-made EVs will become  more attractive to consumers which is why   European companies are looking to grow  their manufacturing output in the U.S. While European officials are happy that the U.S.  is working towards a more sustainable economy, they worry that the IRA discriminates  against European businesses. There are two issues here. The first  one is that there is a bit to the IRA   that is in direct violation of  international rules of trade.

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And the second one is that there is a bit  that can actually distort competitiveness. Policymakers, think tanks and the  business community agree that the   way the U.S. built these subsidies  is simple, unlike the way EU works. The IRA is constructed in  a way that is very simple.   By contrast the European Union  machinery is a lot more complex.

Will firms in the European Union or  anywhere else postpone investment that   they wanted to make in the European  Union and actually profit from the   direct and very simple and immediate  benefit that the IRA actually promises? Some European officials argue  they have allocated more funding to sustainable projects than the United States.

In total, the European Commission has said   there’s more than 600 billion euros  available for the green transition. It’s not just the pull factors,  it’s also about the push factors. For starters, businesses in Europe  complain there’s too much regulation and getting funded is a lengthy process. Sometimes simple is beautiful, the  U.S. plan you might argue about it but it is pretty easy to understand, and it works. But the announcement stateside has  left the EU to reevaluate its actions.

The EU is particularly aware that it needs  to do more to compete internationally. It depends on others to be able to  advance with the green transition.   And that of course, it means  that you become vulnerable,   just like the EU was vulnerable to the  way that it relied on Russia for energy. This issue of the vulnerability  and the lack of diversification,   we have been talking about this for some  time, and it’s important that we take action. The European response so far can be broken  down into two steps. First: state aid. The 27 heads of state agreed to use financial  support from national governments to encourage   businesses to stay in the region  and invest further across the EU. They said this will be temporary and targeted, so  member states do not compete against one another.

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Second: they will pay into a Sovereignty Fund  which could hand out money to worthy projects,   but we still don’t how this will look. For the time being, there’s only appetite to  redirect resources from existing European funds rather than raising new money by issuing bonds. More broadly, the IRA is focused  not just on making the U.S. a more attractive place to invest, it’s  also about gaining an edge over China. Does this go beyond trade? Is this actually a geopolitical issue? The IRA is definitely a geopolitical  tool, a geo-economic tool.

The third part of the of the IRA, which  refers to how it deals with China, is very much an attempt to antagonize it again. Very little that comes out of the U.S. these  days doesn’t have a China dimension in it. And the IRA is no exception in this respect. It remains to be seen how these  trade tensions will evolve,   but the race to be the host to the best  firms in tackling climate change is on.

source CNBC international.

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