Portugal is striving to be at the forefront of energy transition, encourage digital transition and promote the better and more efficient use of resources. These goals are highlighted in the Recovery and Resilience Plan, still in the public consultation phase, recently unveiled by the Government. This plan, designed based on the strategic vision of professor António Costa e Silva, lies within the framework of the European financial instruments to support the crisis caused by the covid-19 pandemic, an incentive package that amounts to a total of 1.8 billion euros at the European level. Portugal will have access to a slice (the largest ever) of this amount: 50 billion euros in non-repayable grants and around 14 billion euros in loans. The three lines of action defined by the Government are “resilience”, which accounts for 61% of the overall amount, followed by “climate transition” and “digital transition”.
The document expresses the country's desire and urgent need for the execution of collaborative projects with other European regions, more specifically related to infrastructure. The Recovery and Resilience Plan reveals that Portugal intends to participate more actively in cross-border integration projects, namely with Spain, not only due to the physical proximity of the two countries, but also due to the level to which the two economies are integrated. One of these projects consists of the integrated lithium chain and the manufacture of batteries, which will allow for a dual response to European strategies for raw materials and the issue of battery production. This industrial sector will be based on innovation, both in relation to processes and products, with the appropriate use of resources, using green mining techniques, which will enable the manufacture and recycling of electric automobile batteries.
Portugal has the capacity to attract technology and companies
“Not only are the main lithium deposits close to the border, but Portugal has the capacity to attract technology and companies interested in refining them. According to the document, the intermediate step between the refining process and the production of batteries is the manufacture of lithium cells”. The biggest lithium deposits in Portugal are found mainly in the northern and central regions of the country, especially in the border areas.
In addition to the exploration of these sites, much discussed due to the fact Portugal has good lithium reserves, and backed by Brussels, the Recovery and Resilience Plan announces the country's commitment to an intermediate step for the production of batteries: the manufacture of lithium cells. Projects are being developed through INL, the International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory, a partnership between the two countries based in Braga, to create state-of-the-art cells that may soon enter the testing phase. “Finally, the manufacture of batteries and the commitment to recycling them (in line with the proposal for new regulations on batteries that defend an analysis of the complete product life cycle) can easily be implemented in the Portugal-Spain border regions, which will also benefit from the powerful presence of the automobile industry in both countries”, says the document.
It should be pointed out that lithium is an essential mineral in the production of several different types of battery, such as mobile phone batteries and tablet batteries, and is increasingly important in energy transition, as it is necessary for the production of electric automobile batteries and may still be a viable solution for the storage of electricity from renewable sources, an area in which Portugal plays an important role.
Brussels defends the exploitation of lithium in Portugal
The European Commission defends the exploitation of lithium in Portugal, as the country has one of the biggest reserves in Europe, and can therefore help reduce external dependence on essential raw materials. Data from Brussels assures that Europe will need 18 and 60 times more lithium by 2030 and 2050 respectively, a goal for the decarbonisation of the Old Continent.