Screening Social Hotspots of Energy Storage Systems for Application in Japan

Main Presenter:    Lukas Messmann 

Co-Authors:   Heng Yi Teah     Eri Amasawa      Yasunori Kikuchi      Noboru Taniguchi                              

Energy storage systems (ESS) are increasingly crucial in Japan due to a higher penetration of renewable energy. Besides pumped hydro, supercapacitors, fuel cells, compressed air, or flywheels, battery ESS are predicted to play a vital role in the transition towards sustainable energy. However, many battery technologies can be linked with social issues, from mining raw materials to processing materials to manufacturing. This study aims to quantify the potential social impacts of selected battery technologies systematically – sodium-sulfur (NaS), lead-acid (PbA), lithium-ion (Li-NMC & Li-LFP), and vanadium redox-flow (VRFB) – including upstream supply chains (imported resources) and domestic ESS production in Japan. We examine how different perspectives and approaches can influence policy-makers or corporate decision-makers’ interpretation of the results. First, we build a process-based inventory of the ESS using industrial survey data, the ecoinvent database, and literature. Second, we
match the processes to country-specific sectors or commodities in the PSILCA database. Each mode is, therefore, suitable for different decision-support purposes, highlighting the need for a differentiated discussion when communicating S-LCA results to stakeholders. For example, in the case of NMC batteries, the indicators for child labor suggest a very high risk for cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and no risk for cobalt ore processing in Japan. In contrast, the worker hours required for mining are ten times higher than for processing. Despite this, only mode C was immediately able to show this hotspot. The weighted child labor risk of indirect activities such as fossil resource-based electricity sectors overshadows the risk in cobalt mining in modes A and B. Mode A shows the risk slightly better than mode B due to the weighing of worker hours. On the other hand, the hotspot of the electricity sector is not readily identifiable in mode C. For selecting a socially
sustainable ESS in Japan, mode C is more actionable to avoid a specific risk entirely. In contrast, the more sophisticated, practical modes A or B may deal more readily with conflicting goals and trade-offs. Overall, the different modes represent complementing perspectives on a complex issue. Both needed to unveil the complete picture.

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