Battery Day - Second-life Batteries: Reuse Needs to Sit Firmly Alongside Design for Recycling

Battery Day (18 February) celebrates the convenience that batteries bring to our everyday lives – in our phones, our computers, our electronics, our cars and our energy storage. This year batteries are more important than ever especially in their role in stabilising energy security.  

With the Ukrainian conflict, volatile energy prices and increasing pressure to reach net-zero, batteries as part of energy storage are in high demand. But, it’s not just the demand for batteries which is growing, attitudes towards sustainable energy systems have also fundamentally changed.

Commercial, industrial and public bodies are looking for different energy models that reduce their carbon impact and bring financial benefits. These models focus on energy system optimisation often including energy storage.

Organisations wish to optimise their current energy systems, using batteries and an intelligent management system to make the most of on-site renewables and reduce expenditure on energy. Investing in battery energy storage can bring several benefits to a business: from maximising the value of electricity generated by renewables on site, and managing peak loads, to generating new revenue streams.

Notably, at Connected Energy we’re witnessing organisations in both private and public spheres seeking both technological and commercial solutions to their energy requirements.

Our E-STOR systems not only support approaches to energy management but also enable new revenue to be generated by providing commercial services to the grid operator. These services reward energy storage operators for charging and discharging power and energy into the grid thereby assisting the grid operator to manage the imbalances often caused by varying levels of renewable generation.

Similarly, the Battery Storage as a Service (BSaaS) model provides an opportunity for parties to adopt energy storage without a large investment upfront. Using a feasibility study, Connected Energy is able to determine the monthly BSaaS costs versus revenue generation and the overall return of the project for each client.

Equal to the growth we are seeing in downstream demand for battery energy storage deployment, we’ve also noticed a shift in perceptions upstream in the battery value chain. Potential battery suppliers and automotive companies are redoubling their focus on second-life use to improve their sustainability credentials and revenue models.

Renault has long been ahead of the game supplying batteries for our BESSs. In fact, each E-STOR system is made up of 24 Renault Kangoo batteries. We’re seeing more companies looking to follow in their wake and we’ve now secured suppliers who will provide the batteries from electric trucks and buses down the line.

Our discussions with suppliers are not just about how they can supply batteries but how to design batteries with second-life uses in mind. Where once the focus was on Connected Energy instigating talks with OEMs, we’re now being approached for our expertise in the emerging second-life battery model.

To sustain this growing momentum, we need a UK policy model that rewards the reuse of materials.

The EU Green Deal for Sustainable Batteries with its requirement that ‘batteries have to be long-lasting and safe, and at the end of their life, they should be repurposed, remanufactured or recycled, feeding valuable materials back into the economy’ is already driving the change we need to see. 

However, it is vital to make sure that the importance of second-life use is not overlooked. Our assessment is that up to thirty per cent of batteries can be re-used in second-life energy storage systems. If we want to decarbonise, then maximising the use of the embedded carbon in existing batteries by extending their life is essential.

With this in mind, design for reuse needs to sit firmly alongside design for recycling.  

This is our message to Grant Shapps, the first Secretary of State of the newly formed government Department for Energy Security and Net-Zero. To support growth in this industry, we need policy drivers that incentivise the reuse of materials and recognises the importance that second-life batteries have in the energy trilemma. 

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