The governance of battery value chains

By Dr Jeffrey Wilson

The battery industry offers significant economic opportunities for Australia. Global demand for batteries is rising rapidly, due to technological transformations in the energy, industrial and transport sectors. Australian governments and businesses have identified building the battery sector as a major national economic imperative.

Australia’s value proposition is as a secure and sustainable partner. Existing battery value chains face significant governance challenges which threaten both their security and sustainability. Australia’s geological endowments, trusted governance framework and strong international relationships make it an ideal partner for international efforts to develop more resilient battery value chains.

Australia will need to upgrade its role within existing global battery value chains. It is already a major up-stream supplier of battery minerals, and end-user of grid-scale batteries. However, it has yet to develop capacity in mid- and down-stream stages of the value chain. As the bulk of value-adding occurs in these stages, Australia’s economic opportunity lies in leveraging its competitive advantages to ‘move along the value chain’ from a mining to processing role.

To successfully execute this agenda, efforts will need to be informed by an integrated value-chain perspective. Australia is not creating a battery industry de novo, but seeking to augment its existing role within a growing global industry. Policy design by governments, and project development by businesses, must be calibrated to the specific governance features and needs of global battery value chains.

A value-chain informed strategy should focus on building mid-stream capacity through international partnerships. Domestically, efforts should target Australia’s mid-stream processing industries, where the most attractive opportunities lie. Internationally, governments and businesses should actively pursue international trade, investment and technology partnerships with key global players.

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