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Dutch storage battery maker considering plant in Poland

Dutch storage battery maker considering plant in Poland
Issue Time:2018-12-20

Dutch storage battery start-up Lithium Werks is in advanced talks with Poland for a billion euro plant like the one it is building in China, its founder told AFP on Monday.

Kees Koolen said Europe was trailing behind Asia in the renewable energy storage sector, which is set to boom as economies transition from fossil fuels to curb global warming in the coming decades.

"Europe needs a lot of these factories and we are inviting each country to talk with us... we are in advanced talks with Poland," Koolen, formerly the CEO of Booking.com and COO of Uber, told AFP in an interview.

He said that Lithium Werks was scaling up its production of industrial-scale lithium iron phosphate batteries able to store large amounts of energy generated by sprawling wind and solar farms.

"The value of a gigafactory (making Lithium storage batteries) would be over a billion euros," Koolen added, estimating that the plant itself would generate 2,500 direct jobs plus another 10,000 to 12,000 indirect positions.

The CEO said the scale of the investment in Europe would mirror one his company is making to build a lithium storage battery plant in the Chinese county of Jiashan near Shanghai, in the Yangtze River Delta.

"It's similar to that in China. So that was 1.6 billion euros (1.8 billion dollars)... initially it will be smaller, but in the end, it will be bigger," he said, adding his company was drawing on both corporate loans and investors to back the project.

- 'Far behind' -

The Polish government did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment on the prospective investment.

But fresh from hosting the UN COP24 climate talks that ended on Saturday in southern Poland, Michal Kurtyka spoke at the Lithiuum Werks event in Warsaw.

While Kurtyka, who is secretary of state in Poland's environment ministry, refused to comment on the talks with the Lithium Werks, he said industrial-scale lithium batteries were the "common denomiator" for any transition to renewable energy.

Koolen said Europe needs to act fast to catch up with Asia in producing industrial-scale lithium batteries.

"We should build some large (storage) battery companies here because all of the battery technology and progress comes from east Asia now and there is one company in the US," he said, referring to the Elon Musk's California-based Telsa.

"In Korea, Japan and China you have...a few big companies that are dominating this market for ten years already," Koolen said.

"If we don't step up as Europe, we'll fall so far behind that we cannot catch up anymore."

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