Build back circular: Green recovery needs greener batteries

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Amrit Chandan, co-founder and CEO, Aceleron,

Aceleron CEO Amrit Chandan urges businesses to embrance circular economy principles to build a better society post-Covid – greener batteries included.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been the single biggest disruptor to the global economy in most people’s lifetimes. We still do not know what the full global effects of the pandemic will be, but what we do know is that it has already begun shaping our future.

The crisis has reinforced the huge importance of the sectors at the forefront of innovation. Secure energy and technology infrastructure have been key to keeping the lights on, Zoom calls connected and social networks operating. This infrastructure has enabled billions of people to maintain some normality during the crisis.

Green energy sources have also proven their capability and silenced what few sceptics remained. The share of clean energy has increased, with renewables at times generating over 50 per cent of our power, and the UK witnessing its longest period ever without coal – over two months. April 2020 was also a record-breaking month for renewable electricity in Great Britain, with solar generation hitting a new record of 9.68GW on a single day (April 20th).

Building Back Better

As the conversation now turns to how we can recover economically, we must also address the other burning global disruptor; the climate emergency.

Covid-19 has exposed the brittleness of a global economy built around the excessive burning of fossil fuels and a linear consumption model of use, discard and replace. Now the discussion is turning to Building Back Better, a movement focussed on redesigning the global economy in the wake of this crisis, which prioritises sustainability and empowers us with the ability to tackle climate change. But what does ‘Better’ mean?

Fortunately, there is a ready-made model that we can look to – the circular economy. Circular principles enable products to be reused, updated or repurposed rather than replaced, ensuring greater resilience, huge waste reductions, financial savings and, most of all, long-term sustainability.

Building circularity into energy

Renewable energy will of course be the cornerstone on which we Build Back Better. But – due to their intermittency – they need the support of battery storage to store clean energy for use when the sun isn’t shining and wind isn’t blowing.

Battery storage is vital. However, the lithium-ion or lead acid batteries traditionally employed are usually welded or glued together, making individual components difficult to replace. If one part fails, the whole battery is usually thrown away – often with more than 80 per cent of its potential life left unused.

We can gain a lot of benefits through applying the circular economy model to the lithium battery. By being able to repair, repurpose and reuse the components within the battery pack prior to recycling, it is possible to maintain and service batteries rather than replace them, reducing both waste and cost over time.

What’s more, circular economy batteries also support the green jobs sector. The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has recently called for a ‘green jobs revolution’ to spearhead the UK’s economic recovery. Fostering battery repair specialists, in the same way that the MOT/repair garage sector works for vehicles, would support the growth of a skilled employment market centred around energy and clean technology.

By utilising innovative solutions like circular economy batteries, we can support the creation of an energy industry that delivers accessible, clean and reliable energy, supports the creation of green jobs and doesn’t exacerbate future waste.

An alternative approach – Building Back Circular

Embedding circular technology and processes into the recovery could lay the foundations for long-term economic, social and environmental sustainability – a new society underpinned by sustainable growth.

Energy and technology are foundations of our economies and lead the way in accelerating both innovation and social progress. These typically trail-blazing sectors will be the primary drivers that enable a net-zero carbon future.

We are now uniquely placed to seize this opportunity and embrace a green economic recovery. By Building Back Circular we can cut emissions, reduce waste and create jobs, ultimately delivering a more sustainable future.

Amrit Chandan is the co-founder and CEO of Aceleron, a clean technology company designing and building lithium-ion batteries to circular economy principles.

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