Electricity Storage – Huge Opportunities and Risks

Since decades, millions batteries of all sizes, chemical compositions (lead acid, nickel cadmium, nickel metal hydride, mercury, lithium ion/, …) have been produced for a variety of purposes in industrialized countries and consumed in developing and emerging countries: Flashlights, radios, small motorcycles, cars and trucks, electricity storage for remote areas and since the beginning of the new millennium also increasingly batteries for solar systems, mini grids for power supply.

With the increase in the use of renewable energy resources and e-mobility, the continuous cost degression of lithium-ion batteries will allow their use as energy storage in power grids and vehicles. Nickel, cobalt, copper and other recyclables are often contained in smaller quantities in batteries. Their recycling is financially viable only if larger quantities are collected, sorted and professionally handled.

Lithium-Ion batteries batteries are harzardous goods and currently have to be transported to Europe for recycling under special precautions. Collection poses a challenge since the residual value of used batteries is low and no deposit is used as an incentive to return old batteries.

Lead-acid batteries, mainly from automobiles, pose a significant threat to the health of children and adults. Lead is widely dispersed by the emptying the acid from the batteries into the environment and melting the lead from the batteries, often in open fires, but always without any air filters.

In addition to deposit systems, a Circular Economy would offer battery leasing or leasing solutions which are now also feasible in poorer economies with the help of modern technologies. Think tanks such as the African Center for Economic Transformation are already addressing the opportunities for Ghana and Africa and are on their way to seeing the circular economy as a development opportunity.