The EU’s Green Deal is the biggest overhaul of policy since the foundation of the modern European Union, hailed by the European Commission President as a “strategy for growth that gives more back than it takes away”.
Among many ambitious targets, the new deal envisions a power sector based largely on renewables. But there is an elephant in the room, one that few people seem to be talking about. And that ‘elephant’ is the cost, shelf life and toxic nature of lithium-ion batteries.
From our iPads and smartphones, to the electric vehicles that are increasingly on our roads, lithium-ion batteries are currently crucial. They are also seen as an important component of cleaning up our planet. And this is where things start to come unstuck; people have not looked far enough ahead. The potentially unaffordable costs of creating grid-scale storage from lithium-ion batteries aside, questions also linger over their environmental impact.
Lithium mines in Tibet and Chile have been linked to polluting and destroying local habitats – not to mention the vast amounts of water associated with lithium production. You can’t talk about a more sustainable future, without going right to the source. And yet, lithium’s whole value chain is problematic. When in use, a lithium-ion battery can be prone to exploding or catching fire, has a finite life and is hard to recycle.
With all these points in mind, I would go as far as to say that it’s a paradox to source renewable energy then look to lithium-ion batteries as storage solutions. And then there’s a pressing strategic question for the European Union, that has the power to make or break its green deal. And that’s access to certain Critical Raw Materials (CRMs) that are sustainable.
In its words: “Access to resources is also a strategic security question for Europe’s ambition to deliver the Green Deal. Ensuring the supply of sustainable raw materials, in particular of critical raw materials necessary for clean technologies, digital, space and defence applications, <….> is therefore one of the pre-requisites to make this transition happen.”
In my mind, everything is pointing towards vanadium – an elemental metal that has been listed by the EU as ‘critical’ and could be the panacea to our power storage conundrum. As yet unheralded, vanadium flow batteries have huge power storage potential and a nearly indefinite life – perfect for the vast volumes of sun and wind power energy we are expected to produce in the future. Experts are also working on reducing its size, so it can become a viable option for electric vehicles in the future. In fact, Chinese car manufacturer Geely, has already done it. Importantly, supplies are currently dominated by China, South Africa, Russia and the US. Vanadium therefore has a risk associated with its supply to Europe.
Norge Mining has the solution and it’s on our doorstep: we are investigating large untapped reserves of vanadium in Norway. Sampling, aerial and laboratory tests so far have confirmed our original beliefs. We now know that we have huge deposits of potentially world class minerals and metals, including vanadium – one of the largest in the world and critically within Europe’s borders. I believe that you can’t have a discussion about our lower carbon future without mentioning vanadium – and its power to create a more efficient, more reliable and cleaner energy market of tomorrow.