Electric batteries: a boon for the climate emergency
The United Nations’ COP27 conference in Egypt aims to roll out efficient solutions to keep global warming below 2°C: our only hope of achieving Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Are batteries up to the task? Four questions for Cedric Duclos, CEO of Saft.
What is Saft’s approach to the climate emergency?
To address the challenges of climate change , we need to act fast by cutting carbon emissions, which account for the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions. TotalEnergies, of which Saft is a subsidiary, is a leading driver in the energy transition and is working to achieve Net Zero by 2050. At Saft, we’re actively contributing to this goal by supporting the rise of electrification across societies, as well as the rise of renewable energies.
Can batteries reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
Absolutely! Our batteries allow our customers to instantly decarbonize their activities by making them electric. We are technicians and engineers first and foremost, and we like practical solutions! Let’s take mobility as an example. Our lithium-ion batteries used on railways ensure diesel locomotives can be replaced with electric engines: in Europe alone, 9,000 trains need to undergo this switchover by 2035. We have also hopped aboard Siemens’ Mireo H Plus hydrogen trains, capable of reaching speeds of 160 km/h and covering 1,000 km with zero emissions.
At sea, our Seanergy 2.0 batteries let ferries and cruise ships dock in ports via electric propulsion, emitting no polluting fumes in the process. In the off-road segment, Saft is electrifying on-site loaders, farm tractors and mining machinery.
Saft is doing its bit in helping to create a low-carbon digital economy, too: our Flex’ion™ batteries provide uninterrupted, reliable electric power supply to data centers, which is critical for data integrity. This avoids the need for diesel generators and requires less cooling via air-conditioning. We’re also working with digital leaders like Microsoft that are also aiming for Net Zero in their activities.
You mentioned renewable energies. To what extent do the Saft batteries help speed this process along?
It’s simple: you cannot order the sun to shine or the wind to blow when your power grid needs electricity! This intermittency leads to imbalances in supply and demand, and often results in thermal power stations having to be started up for peak power generation, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Storing renewable energy and tapping into it as and when consumers need it is therefore key. In fact, the European Commission made a point of noting this in its REPowerEU strategy.
Around the world, solar and wind farm developers are supplementing their sites with battery storage systems. Saft offers them a turnkey solution: containers that are easily transportable anywhere in the world. All that is left to do is connect them to the grid and enjoy access to a reliable storage solution. We have long equipped hundreds of remote, off-grid and insular areas, such as the Australian outback and Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, which is looking to move away from coal.
What’s new here is that major electric grids are also incorporating battery storage. When the Ivory Coast builds its largest solar power station, it choses to work with Saft. Operators in New Zealand, Taiwan, the Philippines and the United States are entrusting us with setting up mass power storage systems on their grids.
In late 2021, we inaugurated France’s biggest battery storage site at a TotalEnergies site in Dunkerque. At a time when the electric system is more fragile, this is an additional asset for grid stability and its ability to incorporate more renewables. Our batteries are also used in several millions of smart counters, allowing each and every one of us to track and reduce the amount of energy we use.
Are batteries compatible with sustainable development criteria?
A battery is sustainable when its environmental footprint is kept to a minimum across its lifecycle, from manufacturing to recycling. At Saft, we have launched a Net Zero program to reduce our activities’ carbon footprint by 4% a year. The action we’re taking to do so is tangible: reducing our plants’ energy consumption and waste, and fitting solar panels at our sites such as Poitiers and Nersac. Our 4,000 employees of staff are all actively involved.
Our products’ tried-and-tested quality make them a sustainable solution, too. A Saft battery can last for over 20 years with zero replacements or maintenance. That’s a huge advantage in reducing emissions, especially when your battery happens to be on an antenna at the top of a mountain or an offshore lighthouse!
Saft also supports the circular economy. We eco-design our products to make end-of-life recycling easier because batteries contain strategic metals such as nickel, which can be recovered and recycled up to 95%. In Sweden, Saft has the only plant of its kind anywhere in the world: customers return their used batteries, and the plant uses their materials to make new batteries. We work with all our partners to ensure that end-of-life batteries are recycled in the very best conditions.
At Saft, we like a good challenge: our batteries work in the most extreme environments, at temperatures ranging from -50 to +150°C. Our batteries landed on Mars, and on Earth they can be found everywhere from the Arctic Circle to the Sahara desert. We’re tackling the climate emergency with that same pioneering spirit, harnessing all our energy to do so.
Our batteries allow our clients to instantly decarbonize their activities by making them electric. Few companies have spent the past hundred years making a product that today has such a bright future!Cedric Duclos Chief Executive Officer Saft