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Mixed reviews on the outcome of the 2006 Battery Directive

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Thirteen years after the 2006 Battery Directive was adopted, the Commission has evaluated its implementation and identified the successes and shortcomings of the directive. This evaluation and the Commission’s Communication published on 9 April form the basis for the definition of the policies that will shape and develop the future European value chain for batteries.

Quick reminder of Directive 2006/66/EC’s content:

  • The Directive sets maximum quantities for certain chemicals and metals in certain batteries,
  • tasks Member States with encouraging improvements to the environmental performance of batteries,
  • requires proper waste management of these batteries, including recycling, collections, “take-back” programs, and disposal,
  • sets waste battery collection rates,
  • sets financial responsibility for these recollection programs,
  • and makes rules covering most phases of this legislation, including labelling, marking, documentation, reviews, and other administrative and procedural matters.

The conclusions of the Directive’s evaluation are not very positive: while most Member States have reached their 2012 waste batteries collection targets (set at 25%), only 14 of them have reached their 2016 goal (set at 45%). France is among those who have missed their target with a 2016 collection rate at 44.5%. The evaluation concludes that the efficiency targets for battery-recycling processes have been met but because of the low collection-rates, the global conclusion is that the Directive has not been able to achieve its overall objective.

Translating ambitions into legislation

Building on the conclusions of the evaluation, the Commission’s communication on the Directive gives a vision of what the batteries sector could look like in 2050. According to the communication, storage could become “the principal way of integrating renewables into the power system as thermal generation declines over time and the potential of demand-response is more fully used.” Such a development could increase at least tenfold compared to 2015. With Europe currently producing only 3% of batteries globally – compared to 85% for Asia – massive investments will be needed in order for the EU not to fall behind. For example, the Commission indicates that 20 to 30 giga-factories should be created in Europe just to sustain battery cells production.

The question that remains now is the following: what will be the measures and tools implemented in order to translate this vision into reality? Following the launch in 2017 of the European Battery Alliance and the implementation since May 2018 of the Strategic action plan for batteries, it would seem very logical for the European Commission to translate its ambitions into a new piece of legislation. Although neither the evaluation report or the Commission’s communication officially announces a revision of the 2006 directive, many elements in both texts strongly indicate that a new battery act is in the pipeline.

Notably, the Commission’s communication indicates that the battery strategy will be a key element in the long-term vision on industrial policy that the European Council is calling for. The evaluation report also hints at an upcoming recast of the legislative framework by highlighting that the recent technical progress in the batteries sector justifies an increase in waste battery collection and recycling. With the report also stating that it is being published as “part of a process that could lead to the Directive’s revision”, it is very clear that things will soon be moving on the battery side.