The battery and renewable energy industries are facing increased scrutiny for their human rights impacts. In December, U.S.-based technology and electric vehicle companies were named in the first lawsuit seeking to hold downstream companies responsible for allegedly aiding and abetting child labour in cobalt extraction in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (https://bit.ly/2UgQPgZ). Energy storage technology, such as batteries, is increasingly developed alongside solar and wind-powered electricity generation. This means the battery industry’s material risks are now of direct concern to a broader group of companies involved in the global transition to a low carbon economy.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the world’s most natural mineral rich countries, yet it is plagued with poverty, inequality, corruption, human rights violations and many more challenges. Mining for materials like cobalt is at the center of these. According to state-owned miner Gecamines, over 22% of the country’s GDP is generated in the mining sector, while 70% of the world’s cobalt is produced in the country.
The scale of fossil fuel deals signed between African governments and U.K. oil and gas interests reportedly amounted to more than 11 times the volume of renewable energy commitments as Britain scrambles for post-Brexit financial opportunities.
Félix Tshisekedi reportedly said he wants to use standalone energy units, such as solar home systems, to bring electricity to at least 21 million people in the next nine years.
By this time next year we may be able to wave goodbye to that old chestnut about renewables endangering security of supply. Elsewhere, the price of lithium – and the products it goes into – could go either way after tanking this year.
The first part of pv magazine’s review of 2019 considers Q1, when solar early adopter Italy offered an optimistic start to the year by fleshing out its plans for PV but uncertainty still clouded the world’s biggest solar market. The potential for household solar installations to rocket the world over – helped by ever cheaper panels – prompted strategic decisions in the inverter market and analyst expectations were confounded as the cobalt and lithium price plummeted, bringing the EV revolution a big step nearer.
Corporations in the auto industry, battery manufacturing and mining have joined forces to establish reliable due diligence reporting on raw minerals. Volvo will be among the first to move on the issue by putting its cobalt supply chain under scrutiny early next year.
The government of the Tshopo province has signed an agreement with Cat Projects Africa for the PV plant. The project will be connected to the grid operated by utility Société nationale d’électricité and is intended to improve power supply in provincial capital Kisangani.
A report by the Powering Peace organization states UN missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo could reduce expense and pollution by using off-grid solar to power operations instead of diesel generators. Adding a 200 kW solar system with 200 kW/450 kWh of energy storage would reduce diesel consumption 80% for 10-year savings of almost $2.6 million, states the group.
The solar home system company, which enables customers to pay their solar electricity bill through an app on their mobile on a PAYG basis, has conducted a monumental funding round as it eyes expansion to become a fully-fledged pay-as-you-go utility.
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