Climate Perspectives - Summer 2023 edition

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for changemakers

“Achieving Net Zero is by no means a one size fits all approach. ”
Matt Nunn
Image: Matt Nunn, Director, EDF Business Solutions.
Contents The Continued Importance of Net Zero Matt Nunn, Director, EDF Business Solutions.
Got an article in mind? Publisher Shawn Coles Interviewer Andy Walker All enquiries 6 16 COVER STORY SUMMER 2023 | Climate Perspectives Net zero buildings: should carbon emissions be the only focus? In climate conversation with… Professor Nathalie Seddon Member - Adaptation Committee, Climate Change Committee. 10
Dr Alejandro Moreno-Rangel, Lecturer, Architecture Department, University of Strathclyde.

A climate perspective

Storm damage to buildings.

Credit: Mitch /

Energy efficiency – a supply and security issue Mervyn Pilley, Executive Director, ESTA. The Growing Need for Battery Recycling Innovation Sheena Hindocha & Nikoleta Piperidou, Knowledge Transfer Managers, Innovate UK KTN. 24 32 Q2 2023 SUMMER 2023 | Climate Perspectives Innovate UK Regular column © Binary Carbon 2023 The UK’s only not-for-profit climate magazine Contents From the way we build to the way we travel, our decisions can drive us to net zero Mark Fenton, Carbon Manager, High Speed Two. 20
for Net Zero Co-authored by Dr Victoria Hands and Professor Stephen Peake, The Open University. 28

The Continued Importance of Net Zero

EDF Business Solutions

With the challenging energy market landscape we’ve been experiencing, it’s inevitable that some businesses may feel their sustainability efforts have had to be de-prioritised, as the impact of the price crisis continues to be felt across all industries.

But it’s important that we don’t let this veer us off the path to achieving Net Zero. While organisations have undoubtedly had to manage unprecedented disruption in recent years, perhaps businesses could embrace this as an opportunity to invest in Net Zero solutions that will improve their resilience to volatile market conditions in future.

Making progress towards Net Zero is not quick or easy, but the results will provide benefits to your business and our planet, and act as a long-term solution to the problems we are seeing today. So, how can businesses stay on track to achieving Net Zero?

Know what you use

Understanding exactly where and when your business is consuming energy is vital to reaching Net Zero. After all, if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. And if you don’t know how much you’re spending on energy, or how that energy is being used, how can you be sure that you are making the right investments for your business?

2023 | Climate
Image courtesy of EDF

Having a clear view of your energy needs and consumption patterns, using solutions such as smart metering and sub-metering, can help you identify trends and key areas for reduction.

Reducing consumption not only unlocks opportunities for lowering your carbon emissions and supporting your Net Zero goals, but also allows for reductions in costs.

Where to start

Achieving Net Zero is by no means a one size fits all approach, but for many businesses, a first step to take is to understand your existing carbon footprint. It’s important to understand where your emissions currently come from if you want to make impactful changes and implement carbon reduction measures in the most relevant areas.

Choosing zero carbon supply

One change that can quickly improve the environmental impact of a business is to move to a zero carbon or renewable energy supply. Making this change enables you to report zero market-based emissions under the GHG Protocol Scope 2 reporting guidelines, offering a strong sustainability message for your customers and stakeholders.

Should you decide to power your business through 100% renewable electricity, there are various options available to suit your business needs, whether that means powering your business through a particular source of generation, or choosing a specific region you’d like your energy to be generated in.

Consider a Corporate PPA (CPPA)

For larger energy consumers who can make a longer-term commitment, a CPPA could be an interesting option. Things start to get more complicated with CPPAs, but they do provide a sophisticated solution to protecting businesses from price fluctuations and make a significant difference to the energy grid and decarbonisation.

With a CPPA you would usually enter into a direct agreement with a renewable energy generator and agree to pay a fixed price for the generation from their renewable asset over a 10-15 year period, providing long-term cost certainty.

In some cases, your agreement could even be enabling the generator to build a new renewable asset. This creates a strong sustainability message and showcases a true commitment to Net Zero, as without


your contractual agreement, that renewable power wouldn’t have come onto the grid.

The challenge with a CPPA is the complexity, as they are intricate to arrange and manage, so they are only suitable if you have resources to make them work; that’s where working with an experienced and trusted partner is essential.

Generating on-site

Rather than purchasing energy from elsewhere, businesses are increasingly looking to installing renewable energy generation, such as solar panels, on-site. With energy prices as they are, the business case for on-site renewables has never been more compelling.

This option is a great way of reducing energy bills and removing third-party delivery costs, delivering significant long-term cost savings. Investing in on-site generation can also increase resilience, as you reduce your dependence on the grid and are protected from market price volatility.

Protecting planet and profit

It’s important to think of Net Zero as an investment. Although seeing a return can take time, adopting Net Zero solutions will deliver rewards for businesses in the future.

It’s also becoming increasingly important to and expected by customers, investors and employees that businesses take their environmental impact seriously. Businesses that want to be resilient and succeed in the long-term need to accelerate their progress towards Net Zero now, or they risk being left behind.

By bringing new renewable generation to the grid, you are once again creating a great sustainability story.


In climate conversation with…

Professor Nathalie Seddon

As a member of the UK Climate Change Committee’s Adaptation Committee, Nathalie Seddon, professor of biodiversity and founding director of the Nature-based Solutions Initiative in the Department of Biology at the University of Oxford, is a key figure in the battle to combat climate change. She spoke to Andy Walker for Climate Perspectives.

Nathalie Seddon is passionate about nature. “From the earliest stages of my life, the central concern for me was not climate change, but rather the loss of nature. “Even at the tender age of eight or nine, I was filled with outrage and sorrow

witnessing the destruction of nature,” she tells me. Seddon says that nature has always felt deeply personal for her, describing it as “a sustained heartbreak that originated from encounters with littering and road construction during my early years.” When she began working in the tropics and witnessed first-hand the immense damage and devastation in the most biodiverse and breathtaking places on earth, her anguish only intensified. “It pierced me to the core and I could not bear it then, nor can I now. This pain, coupled with an intense love for nature, drives everything I do,” she says.

Andy Walker, Interviewer, Climate Perspectives
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Listen to the full podcast interview with Nathalie Seddon

The issue of climate change took longer to penetrate Seddon’s consciousness, initially capturing her attention through its impact on nature. “While I was undoubtedly concerned, the pivotal moment came with the birth of my first child,” she says. “Previously, as an evolutionary biologist, my focus had been on timescales spanning millennia. However, with the arrival of my child, the immediate future gained importance, and my appreciation for humanity deepened,” Seddon says.

Like many who work in this sector, Seddon says there’s no typical day or week in her role. “One of the joys and also challenges of my job is the variety – some days I’m teaching or lecturing, other days talking to government, others with businesses,” she says. “I could be editing and writing reports, scientific articles or policy briefs and I also give a lot of talks and webinars. I run courses, discuss science with my amazing team, but a common thread is the topic – nature and climate change –and the currency is always incredible people. People often ask, how do I stay positive and it’s the inspiring folks I work with that keep me positive and sane,” she tells me.

I ask Seddon whether, as a woman in a prominent role in the sustainability arena, she sees herself as a role model for others and whether the sector should be doing more to encourage diversity? “It often appears that women are taking the lead in tackling the climate crisis, whether at local levels or on the global stage,” she says. “A comprehensive approach, characterised by holistic thinking and creative collaboration,

is necessary to resolve these challenges and many women excel in these areas. I am fortunate to be among these individuals and one of the great joys of my work is the opportunity to collaborate with them. Could I be considered a role model? Perhaps. I strive to align my actions and lifestyle with my principles, following my heart and actively supporting and empowering those around me, regardless of their ethnicity or gender identity,” says Seddon.

Seddon is keen to highlight diversity when it comes to sustainability. “It is crucial for all sectors, including the environmental sector, to actively promote diversity. Addressing climate change and biodiversity loss requires the inclusion of diverse voices and values. In particular, greater efforts are needed to amplify the voices and wisdom of indigenous peoples, as well as the perspectives of youth from all walks of life and identities. The ongoing destruction of the climate system and biosphere is a reflection of the lack of diversity and, consequently, a profound disconnection from nature,” she explains.

As someone involved in advising governments, UN agencies and businesses on nature-based solutions to societal challenges, how does Seddon think the UK is doing when it comes to combatting climate change?

“The UK has the opportunity to drive a green revolution, encompassing not only renewable energy but also the preservation of nature,” she says.

“However, we continue to grapple with vested interests rooted in the old model, clinging to business-as-usual


practices and linear GDP-based economic thinking.”

While praising the UK for being a global pioneer in confronting the climate crisis and the first country to enact a Climate Change Act and as part of that legislation, establishing a legally binding target to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, Seddon is concerned about current policies falling short of the necessary ambition to meet targets. “They lack robust plans for financing and governance and fail to adequately consider negative impacts on biodiversity and adaptation. It is concerning that there seems to be inadequate planning for the synergy between climate mitigation, adaptation and biodiversity goals.

Scaling up biomass and forestry without considering the impact on biodiversity compromises the resilience of our ecosystems and the sectors of our economy that rely on them. So, careful planning is crucial,” Seddon says.

Seddon’s passion for nature is clear throughout our conversation. Having people like her to hold the government to account on its climate change policies is crucial and there is no doubt that she and her colleagues in both the UK Climate Change Committee’s Adaptation Committee and the Nature-based Solutions Initiative, will continue to hold politicians’ feet to the fire on this crucial issue for us all.

Professor Nathalie Seddon

A climate perspective

Poor sunflower harvest due to lack of rain. Climate change, global warming and drought have resulted in crop failure.

Credit: Aleksandr Lesik /

Net zero buildings: should carbon emissions be the only focus?

Performance Evaluation

Design, Architecture

For more than a decade, we have endured the devastating consequences of climate change. In a groundbreaking move, the UK government declared a Climate Emergency in 2019, paving the way for a legally binding framework to achieve net zero emissions. Among the crucial sectors identified for action, the urgent need to transform our buildings, particularly by retrofitting existing stock, emerged as a top priority.

It's no secret that the UK has Europe's worst energy-efficient building stock, contributing over 30% of total greenhouse gas emissions. In a determined push towards net zero,

the UK government introduced the Future Homes Standard in England, while Scotland established the Domestic Building Environmental Standards (2025) Bill, akin to the renowned Passivhaus standard. These policies represent significant milestones, but it's worth noting that a substantial number of buildings still heavily rely on natural gas for heating, hot water, and cooking. Thus, retrofitting existing buildings emerges as the foremost challenge.

Retrofitting existing buildings is crucial if we are to meet our legally binding targets. By recognising the importance of retrofitting and heating, the government

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acknowledges these as some of the most pressing challenges in the UK. However, before embarking on a renovation strategy, it is essential to thoroughly understand the building in question to avoid complications such as mould and condensation. Taking a balanced approach ensures that retrofitting benefits everyone, steering clear of health and safety issues in homes and businesses.

While the advent of net zero buildings brings forth new economic and research opportunities for the UK, it is not without potential drawbacks. The introduction of new technologies and investments may drive up the cost of homes, rendering them unaffordable for certain individuals. For instance, the requirement for buildings to achieve an EPC rating of C or higher may exclude those who cannot afford the necessary energy-efficient improvements. Moreover, banks may prioritise net zero building mortgages, offering more favourable rates, which could further widen the price gap between net zero and nonnet zero homes. Thus, it is vital to consider the social impact and adopt a holistic approach.

greenhouse gas emissions, but they can also profoundly improve our health and wellbeing. The COVID-19 lockdowns have underscored the impact of indoor air quality on human health, as our homes and workplaces directly influence our daily wellbeing. Tragically, a 2-yearold child's death in December 2022 was linked to poor building conditions and the presence of mould in their lungs an appalling consequence of inadequate ventilation or flawed retrofit strategies. But what does the indoor environment have to do with net zero buildings?

The answer is quite simple: everything. As we strive for net zero, our aim is to isolate the indoor environment from the outdoors as much as possible, retaining heat during winter and minimising heat gain in summer.

Net zero buildings not only benefit the environment by saving energy and reducing heat pollution and

This endeavour involves altering the characteristics of the building components that contribute the most to heat transfer between the interior and exterior. For example, tripleglazing windows and enhanced insulation play a vital role. As we progress towards net zero, buildings become increasingly insulated and airtight, offering greater control over ventilation rates.

Subsequently, we turn our attention to enhancing the efficiency of building systems and renewable energy production. These improvements are not mere add-ons; they are integral to going beyond the net zero checkbox, ensuring that our new buildings and retrofits prioritise our wellbeing alongside the planet's health.

When pursuing net zero, it is important not to focus solely on operational carbon emissions resulting from heating and electric appliances. It is equally crucial to acknowledge the carbon emissions associated with the construction process itself. This encompasses the extraction and transformation of raw materials like concrete, their transportation, and even the eventual decommissioning of the building. Opting for natural materials, preferably locally sourced,

becomes paramount. For instance, a building with a concrete or steel frame and fossil fuel-based insulation, such as extruded polystyrene, would have a significant carbon footprint. However, this can be avoided by opting for a timber structure with natural insulation, which has the added benefit of carbon sequestration throughout the building's life cycle.

It is important to note that other factors should also be considered beyond carbon emissions when selecting construction materials.

Climate change has been the primary catalyst for the emergence of net zero buildings and the associated policies. However, a holistic approach must be adopted to mitigate impacts on society while simultaneously improving our quality of life. To achieve true "net zero" in buildings, it is crucial to address both operational and construction emissions. Whether new constructions or retrofits, net zero buildings should be designed to benefit the planet and enhance our overall wellbeing.


Climate change is a global threat, one that no single country, government or corporation can resolve. In the UK, we’ve committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2050, however, while the energy and business sectors have made huge strides to decarbonise since 1990 - reducing emissions by 66% and 42% respectively - the transport industry has stalled, managing just an 11% reduction in the past 33 years1. As we build the UK’s new high-speed railway, we’re focused on behaviour change, empowering our workforce to build HS2 in a greener way and encouraging our future passengers to make greener decisions, to forgo planes and cars for zero-carbon travel.

Crucially, individuals must feel that they can make a difference and understand the positive impacts of their collective action, whether it be in the machinery they procure, how they act on site, or the journeys they take.

Our teams at HS2 Ltd are working alongside our contractors and industry partners to promote innovation in cleaner construction methods, including finding ways to reduce our reliance on diesel-powered equipment. Nineteen of our sites are already diesel-free, achieved through the use of hydrogen technologies, electric powered machinery and renewable energy. We have ambitious targets, and recently

From the way we build to the way we travel, our decisions can drive us to net zero
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published our ‘Diesel-free Plan: Building a net zero future’ to explain how the project will continue on its journey to achieve 100% diesel-free construction sites by 2029.

More widely, our Net Zero Carbon Plan outlines how we intend to achieve net zero carbon emissions as an organisation by 2035, a full 15years ahead of the schedule set by Government2. This includes cutting carbon through design, cutting emissions from concrete and steel, introducing eco-friendly features into structures such as stations, and looking at ways to capture and store carbon emissions using nature-based interventions such as planting new trees to absorb carbon dioxide.

The biggest legacy HS2 will leave is one of high-speed, zero-carbon travel, with the new railway set to serve hundreds of thousands of passengers, every day, for the next century. These fast and frequent connections will remove polluting vehicles from our roads and reduce the demand for domestic air travel, creating faster links between London, Birmingham and Manchester to Glasgow and Edinburgh (HS2 trains will connect to the conventional rail network from the North West to Scotland). It’s worth confirming that high speed trains will run on electrified tracks, powered by renewable energy sources, providing true zero-carbon transport.

By opening up so much extra capacity on a new dedicated network, taking hundreds of long-distance rail services off the Victorian railway, HS2 will also create space for more local rail journeys as well as additional freight trains. For consumers, this will mean more rail services to choose from, and for businesses, more scope to move goods by rail, taking thousands of HGVs off our roads every year. Enabling people to use more sustainable modes of travel is a core part of the Climate Change Committee’s scenarios for net zero, with its models assuming that between 5-8% of car-kilometres can be switched to public transport by 2050.

As individuals, we have different capabilities and varying capacities to contribute to net zero, but crucially we can all contribute – it’s important that we all play our part. In the UK, 88% of people would like to make more sustainable choices, but 88% also feel it’s too hard to make sustainable choices because of high costs, inconvenience, limited knowledge or other barriers3. At HS2, we’re committed to removing those barriers, whether it be through staff training and initiatives as we build HS2, or by opening up more, greener travel choices for passengers once the

railway is complete. We’ve partnered with The Carbon Literacy Project to equip our staff with the knowledge and motivation to reduce carbon emissions and we’re recognised as a Carbon Literate Organisation.

In the face of such a monumental challenge, we must all work together to deliver the best railway in the best way, empowering those around us to make the decisions that will drive us to net zero.

the HS2 free webinar for Net Zero Week. Learn more here.

Energy efficiency – a supply and security issue

I have just completed four years at ESTA and it has certainly been a roller coaster ride. Brexit, a pandemic, and then a war have made life interesting. The illegal war in Ukraine and the subsequent energy crisis should have made running an energy efficiency trade association one of the easiest jobs on the planet but it hasn’t quite worked out like that. One of the biggest underlying frustrations I have is the seeming inability of the government to understand that energy efficiency really is a supply and consequently a security issue. The ‘first fuel’ argument that the International Energy Agency uses so eloquently really does reiterate the fact that the

energy you don’t use is as important as where you get the energy you do use from. And why is this so important, well so much focus of everyone related to the transition to Net Zero- back to those two words in a minute- has been on some very ‘big ticket’ – hugely expensive and very long-term supply solutions. I have always tried to keep an open mind on finding the right solutions to solve needs but carbon capture and storage remains very much a commercially untested solution and whilst nuclear is clearly very much tried and tested there are still many questions over the funding solution for building new nuclear power stations, let alone the legacy issues of getting rid of waste.

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ESTA was forty years old in 2022 and as one of my historian members reminded me energy management goes back to the 1970’s so there is nothing new at all in energy efficiency. As a trade association our members look to provide all forms of solutions for hard pressed businesses including the financing of installations. In reality many of the solutions, especially metering and building energy management systems are in place and ready to be installed. I have been amazed at listening to stories from many people who have told me about metering that was installed many years ago and then appeared to have been

forgotten about. Clearly having data on usage is critical but equally important is having someone on hand who can understand what the data is telling the user and recommend what to do next to reduce usage. We have been driving forward our behaviour change based programme – The Energy Conscious Organisation- to try and ensure that matching humans and technology will achieve the best results. I am aware that the view is that AI can learn how to take much of the data interpretation process, but I still believe that humans are going to be needed for many years ahead.

I said I would get back to those two words. One thing that COP26 rather reinforced to me was that everyone was being encouraged to focus on Net Zero rather than the two words that we believe are critical as the starting point for every Net Zero journey –energy efficiency. Making sure the message about the critical importance of energy efficiency got out was an increasingly hard job. What made the job even more frustrating was that in reality everyone was being encouraged to tick the race to net zero box without there being any real support mechanisms in place for the achievers to achieve their target. Whilst the solutions do exist and indeed have existed for a long time the fact remains that the private sector can’t do everything on its own.

I am a great believer in the need for both carrots and sticks. Businesses need incentivisation, ideally through the taxation system, to invest in solutions. Regulations are also needed to ensure that new buildings are built to the right standards but these need to be enforced. The commercial property stock in the UK is very complex and retrofitting solutions is critical. For that reason the lack of a national retrofit plan together with a strategy for funding

that plan as well as training up the very large number of installers that will be needed is a major stumbling block for businesses and other nondomestic users to reduce the energy usage of their buildings. It is important to recognise just how much installer capacity comes from the SME sector and the failure of the green deal and green homes grant schemes has discouraged many businesses from taking on and training up the much-needed installers. This also has a dampening effect on the need to substantially boost the number of green jobs in the UK. There are many people that need to transition from the fossil fuel sector into new roles.

27 Join the ESTA free webinar for Net Zero Week. Learn more here.

Skills for Net Zero

There are more graduates alive today than at any time in human history –yet ecologically, for example in terms of Planetary Boundaries, we are 90 seconds before the proverbial midnight hour. We are at ‘Code Red’ for humanity. This has led to calls for a different skills set than the one which has brought us to this crisis point. Skills which enable “…more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of every kind….. people who live well in their places….people of moral courage willing to …. make the world habitable and humane.’ Not your day job? What if now is the time for an urgent and radical transformation in the skills we learn to deliver Net Zero?

Scientifically, we’ve known for decades what Net Zero means for the planet and society. A Net Zero planet, economy, and society is one that permanently removes from the atmosphere at least as much greenhouse gas as it emits. Scientific, industrial and technological skills to move away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy systems are estimated to affect around a fifth of today’s workers – those currently employed in sectors that have a core role in delivering Net Zero. They need skills including:

•ecological literacy and naturecentric design

•systems rethinking and redesign for integrated services

•circular and closed loop resource cycling

SUMMER 2023 | Climate Perspectives

Credit: frank60/

sectors – climate safety can be the only winner

•accelerated capital and finance creation

•resource efficient and climate resilient redesign of machines, cities and infrastructure

•clean energy (solar, onshore and offshore wind in particular)

•new industrial hydrogen systems, carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) and nature-based solutions.

The challenge is to survive in a rapidly heating world whilst transitioning to a low carbon renewable energy economy: reskilling as we heat up. Climate risk multipliers from extreme weather impacts such as heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, and flooding now affect us all. This means that every job has the potential to be a ‘green job’ and this requires skills in:

•prevention, risk reduction and mitigation

•community resilience, including local food growing and community care

•regenerative practices and restoring nature

•compassion, kindness, and care for the most vulnerable in society

•disaster management, recovery and resilience for nature, people, and culture across all sectors.

‘Green skills’ are defined as ‘the knowledge, abilities, values, and attitudes needed to live in, develop and support a sustainable and resource-efficient society’. Skills for Net Zero must focus on values and attitudes to deliver a behavioural transition in order that modern, renewable, industrial economic systems can adapt to the climate impacts we face. This means skills, humility and confidence in:

•unlearning as much as learning, in particular for senior leaders

•challenging our assumptions and learning from failures

•recognising unsustainable values and attitudes

•refocusing on the ‘big picture’, on becoming a ‘good ancestor’ to future generations

•allyship to ensure involvement of the full diversity of people affected by organisational activities.

People of colour, women, youth, older experienced workers and those from low-income backgrounds have not been sufficiently included in the recent digital skills drive to activate the huge potential and possibilities of an inclusive, diverse workforce which also strengthens local communities.

across and within

Decarbonisation is inextricably linked to decolonisation and democratisation and therefore it represents a profound shift in consciousness, including the understanding that people are part of nature which is a starting place for the development of ecological literacy. Skills related to how we creatively shift our values and attitudes are essential and these include skills which stimulate the heart as well as the mind such as:

• storytelling

• visioning a thriving future and artistry of all kinds

• stimulating creativity

• engendering a love for nature and a sense of belonging to place and people.

As the largest UK academic institution, The Open University produces accessible and impactful learning through our formal qualifications, short courses and free content on OpenLearn, as well as collaborating with the BBC on programmes such as Wild Isles and Blue Planet II. We recently celebrated 25 years of renewable energy education and launched a new Microcredential - Climate Change: Transforming your Organisation for Sustainability intended to support those delivering Net Zero in the

workplace to reimagine their organisation.

The Open University was born a disruptor and extends educational opportunities to those normally excluded from full-time campusbased provision. In 2019, The OU Sustainability vision ‘to create and share learning and knowledge for social and environmental justice’ challenged our staff to ask: What if education could once again act as a disruptive innovation? What if sustainability became ‘everyone’s job’? This is the approach The Open University is taking to Net Zero as we upskill and reskill our own colleagues, embed skills for Net Zero across our curriculum and generate new content in collaboration with a range of partners. Join us!

. 31 Join The Open University free webinar for Net Zero Week. Learn more here.

The Growing Need for Battery Recycling Innovation

Electric Vehicles are the transport of the future, but with limited supply of raw materials to make EV batteries, the UK needs to become a batterrecycling superpower to secure its supply. Sheena Hindocha and Nikoleta Piperidou, Knowledge Transfer Managers at Innovate UK KTN, and co-authors of the ‘The 2035 UK Battery Recycling Industry Vision’, discuss the opportunity battery recycling offers the UK and what’s needed to help the solution become a reality.

transport to help reach its net-zero target by 2050. Transport contributes a substantial amount to the UK’s carbon footprint, accounting for a staggering 34% of all carbon emissions within the UK in 2022. With this in mind, the UK government is keen to accelerate alternative transport that can significantly reduce the sector’s carbon emissions.

It’s no secret that the government is fully behind the rollout of electric

As we all know, the electrification of transport remains the most feasible technology capable of being fully integrated into the UK’s infrastructure in the coming decades.

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Co-authored by Nikoleta Piperidou, Knowledge Transfer

The UK’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution highlights this shift in dependency, stating that all new petrol and diesel cars will be banned from sale within the UK by 2030, with hybrids phased out by 2035. From that point on, the only new car that will be allowed sale within the UK will be electric. The challenge, however, will be in powering these vehicles.

The raw materials required to make EV batteries - rare minerals lithium and cobalt - are in limited supply.

Nations across the globe are all competing for access to these critical minerals and with over 1.6 million EVs expected to be produced per annum by 2040, securing these minerals will be the UK’s top priority. As such, the UK’s Critical Mineral Strategy, published in 2022, identifies lithium and cobalt as highly critical to the UK. Considering the rarity of raw battery materials, the recycling of automotive batteries will become an enormous global industry. Without any lithium or cobalt mines of our own, battery

recycling is the UK’s best option for securing supply, so what’s holding us back? Well, recycling EV batteries presents significant challenges. The first and most important challenge is its economic value. Currently, the only material worth extracting from an expired battery is cobalt, leaving lithium, magnesium, and nickel without a means to be recycled that doesn’t require additional processing, leading to higher costs in extraction.

The other challenge is the consequent emissions produced during the process. The two main methods of recycling batteries either involve extreme temperatures or acid, which are both carbon-intensive processes that create toxic waste which could end up in the environment. Not only this, but the transportation of these batteries is expensive and also adds further carbon costs to the entire recycling process, with little infrastructure to support the expansion of the industry.


A climate perspective

Shanghai - Air pollution is the third leading cause of death worldwide, and most large cities, Shanghai included, have fine particulate matter (PM2.5) levels above WHO health guidelines.

Credit: lukyeee_nuttawut /

A significant part of the problem is that no two EV batteries are the same. Different cell manufacturers use different designs, making the automation of EV battery recycling impossible. With clear incentives, technologies and solutions in place, battery recycling could become a reality for the UK. But, to achieve this, substantial work must be completed within the following areas:

Research and Innovation

There is a huge opportunity for the UK to pioneer new approaches to battery recycling, particularly in the chemical and physical separation of materials, to improve its sustainability.

There is also the consideration of new, cheaper technologies currently being adopted by big players, such as Tesla, which has been utilising Lithium-iron phosphate (LFP) batteries. This trend towards cheaper battery chemistries has significantly reduced the cost of producing EVs but, as a result, has meant the cost of

recycling these technologies currently outweighs their material value. With the government keen to expedite the UK’s transition to EVs, innovation in this space could be crucial if this technology continues to be used by some of the most popular electric car brands. There is also the need for improved battery management systems. Currently, there is limited insight we can gather from State of Health (SoH) systems to indicate whether a battery needs to be recycled, reused or can be repurposed for another application. It goes without saying that one battery could house tens, if not hundreds of cells, and standard SoH testing can’t accurately measure each cell within a battery. It is clear, therefore, that new developments within this field are needed to help provide heightened insight into a battery’s health and potential use.


For the UK to become a leader in battery recycling, effective policy must also be integrated alongside new processes. The introduction of


regulations which support the handling, dismantling, repair, repurposing and recycling of batteries at the end of their first life is paramount in ensuring the sector can grow.

concept and will require international industry collaboration to succeed.


The current cost of recycled materials, for example, is simply too expensive when compared to the price of new raw materials. With regulations in place, battery manufacturers could have minimum target levels of recycled content they must meet. Interestingly, the EU is already developing a regulatory framework for this; the UK will have to follow suit to not only encourage the recycling of battery materials, but also to ensure UK products remain viable for the EU market.

Lastly, the UK needs grounded infrastructure to support large-scale battery recycling. With more and more EVs soon to hit UK roads, the number of end-of-life batteries will increase exponentially, and the UK must be ready to accommodate. If slow to respond, the volume of waste could seriously overwhelm the UK’s existing recycling infrastructure, leading to costly international shipping of UK EV waste.

There is also a need for improved tracking of the batteries and their components to better understand and measure their environmental impact.

The Global Battery Alliance is already working towards this, looking to implement a battery passport system to better track the sourcing and use of raw materials. This, however, is currently just a proof of

To support this increased demand, the UK government must support the growth of innovative SMEs to pilot and demonstrate their recycling technologies at a scale which could then unlock further investment. Access to facilities within the UK, such as universities or utilising the Catapult Network, could provide SMEs with the data needed to better understand the economic impact of new recycling technologies and their real-world feasibility.

Alongside this, there is also need for heightened investment in the industry to support the rapid expansion of the UK’s recycling facilities. Regional collection points could significantly reduce the high transportation costs of batteries and make the process much more financially viable. Not only this, but the handling and disposal of end-oflife requires robust processing facilities and a newly trained workforce to ensure the successful integration of battery recycling.

To find out about more about what battery recycling could offer the UK, as well as news, funding and collaboration opportunities, visit the UK Batteries Network where ‘The 2035 UK Battery Recycling Industry Vision’ will be published imminently.

Battery recycling is an exciting opportunity for the UK. With EVs soon to dominate roads across the world, the UK could prime itself to be a world leader in battery recycling. With raw materials becoming increasingly costly, looming net-zero targets and the upcoming ban on new petrol and diesel cars draws, the UK’s ability to respond in the coming years will be crucial to its success.

the Innovate UK free webinars for Net Zero Week. Learn more here. 38



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