As the energy transition leads to more renewable energy and electrification of transport, demand for storage batteries is increasing. Manufacturing such batteries, however, requires a wide array of raw materials that Japan must import, often competing with both allies and rivals.
Once again, just like with fossil fuels, Japan is highly dependent on international supply chains and hence, vulnerable to disruptions. But the challenge is even greater because clean energy supply chains are more complex than those for fossil fuels. Rather than targeting just three basic hydrocarbons, Japan will now need to manage – and scale up – the sourcing of dozens of critical elements. The EV sector alone will require 30-40 times more lithium, nickel and graphite, among others, by 2040 to meet global climate targets, the IEA forecasts.
To alleviate the supply chain challenge, there’s been growing interest in ways to recycle and/or reuse vehicle batteries. And at the end of October, JERA and Toyota achieved what could become a major breakthrough in the field. In a world first, the two companies launched a demonstration of an energy storage system that deploys a wide range of old EV batteries which can connect to the grid.
This development holds potential to extend the life of batteries, and as a result can help to partly insulate Japan from disruptions in international supply chains. Plus, with the cost of recycling and battery disposal high, there’s likely to be no shortage of those willing to hand over aging batteries.