EU leaders are being warned not to repeat the mistakes of their previous reliance on Russian gas by becoming dependent on Chinese lithium-ion batteries needed for the energy transition.
A document, prepared by the Spanish presidency of the EU and cited by Reuters, raises concerns about Europe once again putting itself in a vulnerable position regarding its energy security.
The paper will be discussed by EU leaders at an economic security meeting in the Spanish city of Granada next month, according to the news agency.
The EU is increasingly relying on variable renewable energy sources such as wind and solar as it targets net zero by 2050. As such, the paper said the bloc will have to dramatically ramp up its energy storage capabilities to help balance supply and demand.
“This will skyrocket our demand for lithium-ion batteries, fuel cells and electrolysers, which is expected to multiply between 10 and 30 times in the coming years,” said the paper.
China has largely cornered the market for lithium-ion batteries, which are widely used for both energy storage systems and electric vehicles.
“Without implementing strong measures, the European energy ecosystem could have a dependency on China by 2030 of a different nature, but with a similar severity, from the one it had on Russia before the invasion of Ukraine,” said the paper.
The European Commission has previously said that the EU took over 40% of its total gas consumption, 27% of oil imports and 46% of coal imports from Russia before its invasion last year.
The paper also warned of a “similar scenario” in the digital-tech space amid an expected sharp rise in demand for devices such as sensors, drones, data servers, storage equipment and data transmission networks, Reuters reported.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen criticised China last week for “deliberate policies” to cause supply chain issues in the renewables sector as she announced new support for the bloc’s struggling wind power industry.
There is concern that Chinese manufacturers could outcompete their European counterparts with cheap and highly powerful wind turbines that are too hard to resist for developers, much as they did in the solar sector previously.
The head of Europe’s main wind industry group, WindEurope, warned project developers in an interview with Recharge to think about the “long-term implications” before being “tempted” by Chinese wind turbines that he claimed are being offered with unfair subsidies and could be a security threat.