Newswise — The Bridging the Gap workshop examined how to put the United States on the path to long-term global competitiveness.
The United States has exciting potential to become an innovative global leader in battery manufacturing. But critical challenges must be addressed before this potential can be realized.
This was one of the key takeaways from Bridging the Gap, a recent two-day workshop hosted by Li-Bridge to examine opportunities and challenges in the battery supply chain. Li-Bridge is a public-private alliance coordinated by the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory. The workshop explored how collaboration between industry and federal agencies can help build a robust national battery industry.
“I was impressed by the variety of innovative ideas implemented throughout the supply chain. If we can make all of these ideas a reality, we can develop a competitive industry in the United States. We may also have materials, technologies and manufacturing methods that are superior to what the rest of the world is looking for. — Venkat Srinivasan, director of the Argonne Collaborative Center for Energy Storage Science
Can the United States make enough batteries for the clean energy transition?
Over the past year, several forces have come together to create momentum behind the clean energy transition. There are federal-level goals to achieve carbon-free electricity by 2035 and net-zero economy-wide emissions by 2050. Companies across the country have responded by making significant investments in clean energies.
A successful transition relies heavily on the massive deployment of battery energy storage. This can enable widespread adoption of electric vehicles as well as an electrical grid powered by intermittent renewables.
However, the domestic industry is not equipped for this deployment. According to a 2021 DOE battery supply chain assessment, the country has key vulnerabilities in raw material production and processing, minimal global market share in component and cell manufacturing, and a lack of battery recycling. In parallel, a batteries-fcab” href=”https://www.energy.gov/eere/vehicles/federal-consortium-advanced-batteries-fcab”>consortium of federal agencies released the National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries, 2021–2030. The plan outlines a comprehensive set of goals to address these weaknesses and ensure the nation’s long-term global competitiveness.
The goal of the Bridging the Gap workshop was to build the knowledge base needed to rapidly scale up energy storage.
“The battery market is expected to grow 20 to 30 times over the next decade,” said Venkat Srinivasan, director of the Argonne Collaborative Center for Energy Storage Science (ACCESS) and one of the organizers. of the workshop.
“With this rapid trajectory comes the challenge of how to implement it on the ground. Can you find the people to work in the factories that produce these devices? Can you get all the raw materials that go into those factories to build those devices? Do you have a secure supply of these materials? These are some of the questions we explored in this workshop.
About half of the approximately 800 attendees were from industry. These included metal mining and processing companies, battery components, cell and pack manufacturers, recyclers, and companies in the automotive and networking sectors. The other half included government stakeholders, workforce development agencies, and researchers from national laboratories and universities.
Many innovative ideas, many challenges
The workshop included presentations from over 90 industry members. Speakers covered the entire supply chain, from raw material extraction to recycling. They discussed their technological advancements, production plans and challenges.
“I was impressed by the variety of innovative ideas being pursued throughout the supply chain,” Srinivasan said. “If we can make all of these ideas a reality, we can develop a competitive industry in the United States. We can also have materials, technologies and manufacturing methods that are superior to what the rest of the world is looking for.”
Participant surveys revealed that workforce development is a critical challenge. There is a lack of mine and factory workers, experts with doctorates, process engineers, technicians and many other types of workers. Thousands of people will need to be trained to enable significant market growth. A promising idea discussed at the workshop was to develop professional study programs that can be replicated in community colleges across the country. Potential educational formats include online conferences and in-person trainings at companies.
Two days after the workshop, the DOE announced that it would invest $5 million in training programs for battery manufacturing. The goal of the initiative is to bring together manufacturers, organized labor and training providers to develop a national workforce strategy.
Workshop participants highlighted other barriers to expanding domestic production. These included lack of access to suppliers, lack of funding and authorization delays.
Notably, there were three times as many industry presentations on manufacturing and recycling as presentations on upstream materials processing. This disparity suggests that materials processing is a particularly weak link in the supply chain.
The discussions identified several priorities to ensure a secure supply of materials. These included increasing the number of national mining and refining companies and developing a national recycling strategy. Other priorities were the diversification of materials used in production and the formation of partnerships with other countries.
“If you increase the number of partnerships you have around the world, you are not dependent on any source,” Srinivasan said.
A significant development with supply partnerships occurred the day before the workshop. Li-Bridge and the European Battery Alliance have launched a collaboration to support a strong supply of raw materials for batteries.
As part of the bipartisan Infrastructure Act passed by Congress last year, the DOE is providing nearly “href=”https://www.energy.gov/articles/biden-administration-doe-invest-3 batteries -billion-strengthen-us-supply-chain-advanced-batteries”>$3 billion over the next few months. The funds are for pilot and commercial facilities that produce materials, components, cells, and battery packs. The funds can also be used for battery recycling, and is the first round of funding of $6 billion allocated under the act to strengthen the nation’s battery industry.
The insights from this workshop will be available to the DOE as it considers how to implement its strategy for this and other funding in the future. The workshop is also publicly available online.
The workshop knowledge base will serve as a starting point for Li-Bridge to organize a series of in-depth workshops over the next six months. The results of the series will form the basis of recommendations on a long-term competitiveness strategy that Li-Bridge will submit to the DOE.
“We have a unique opportunity to change the way we produce and use energy,” Srinivasan said. “This workshop was about how to enable this historic transition.”