Lead Matters

The current global energy crisis is a pivotal moment for the clean energy transition within the EU. To achieve the twin transition, the challenges ahead are numerous including global high inflation, challenging geopolitics, supply disruption, energy crisis and the impact of EU policies such us Critical Raw Materials and Green Deal Industrial Plan. Lead plays an essential role in the energy transition because many critical raw materials, products and industry sectors rely on it either directly or indirectly.

Lead is an essential material that plays a key role in transportation, electrification, technological diversity, green energy, supply chain security, and in achieving recycling targets.

Lead is directly supporting a wide range of low-carbon technologies which are vital to delivering the European Green Deal’s net zero objectives. 

Key sectors supporting Europe’s future, including solar power, wind power, healthcare, lead battery production, the marine sector, aeronautics, space, and defence rely on lead.

Lead Matters demonstrates the significant role that lead metal plays as a raw material for the EU objectives associated with the Green Deal, Circular Economy, Clean Mobility, Critical Raw Materials Act and Green Deal Industrial Plan.

Clean energy

Lead’s unique properties support a wide range of low-carbon technologies which are vital to delivering the European Green Deal’s low carbon objectives. From lead providing longevity and reliability to solar panels, as protective sheathing in undersea cables linking wind farms to the grid, through to advanced lead batteries providing energy storage for renewables – lead and lead batteries are an important part of the complex eco-system required to deliver widescale electrification and deep decarbonisation.

Clean mobility

Lead batteries are an essential onboard component in start-stop, mild-hybrid, full-hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs), and they can also be installed in EV charging stations to improve efficiency – a key enabler in the transition to an energy-efficient, decarbonised transport sector.

Societal & economic importance

From aviation to healthcare, the wide range of sectors supported by essential uses of lead are significant contributors to employment creation and economic growth. There are more than 20 essential uses of lead in the aeronautics industries, while lead-based radiation protection is currently the most effective, sustainable and cost-efficient way to safeguard the use of medical imaging today.

Industrial strategy

Lead enables energy-efficient precision engineering of intricate metal articles in high-production markets. From nuts and bolts, locks and keys to engine components, lead reduces friction during high-performance machining of steel, brass, and aluminium alloys.

Circular economy

With its new Circular Economy strategy, the EU’s ability to efficiently recycle metals is becoming increasingly important. Metals are eminently recyclable and the EU’s home-grown metals recycling industry is one of the most advanced and efficient in the world – and lead has a pivotal role within it.

Thanks to a unique combination of properties, and performance characteristics that span energy efficiency, carbon footprint, socio-economics, raw material security, as well as technical function, lead is the only suitable material in the many applications and industries essential to EU society and the economy.

For Europe’s future, Lead Matters. Considering that many products and applications that rely on lead underpin the EU’s policy objectives for the energy transition and sustainable future, there is a need to assess the risk including lead metal in the REACH Annex XIV, in view of:

  • It would have severe consequences for a wide range of strategically important European industries and applications, including clean energy – including solar, nuclear and offshore wind – healthcare, non-ferrous metals manufacturing, lead battery production, automotive, machinery and mechanical engineering industries, the marine sector, aeronautics, space, and defence.
  • The use of lead is not only unavoidable, but essential for production of some EU Critical Raw Materials.
  • The lack of availability of technically feasible and commercially viable alternatives, despite decades of research and investment.
  • Lead metal is already extensively regulated. The EU already has a comprehensive framework of lead-specific legislation designed to manage risk to human health. Therefore, REACH Authorisation listing for lead will simply add unnecessary bureaucratic burden, block investment and is not the best option to improve risk management, stimulate faster substitution, or reduce exposure. 
  • Energy plays a strategic role and the EU cannot afford to introduce contradictory policies that represent a step backwards in the transition to clean energy. Otherwise, uncertainty in investment and job creation would arise, affecting key energy sectors directly involved in what the Green Deal and the EU Industrial Plan are trying to achieve.