Paper has a positive sustainability image. It is based on renewable raw materials, is easy to recycle and, at the end of its life cycle, only releases as much CO2 as the raw materials removed from the atmosphere during their creation. However, the production of paper, cardboard and paperboard requires enormous amounts of thermal and electrical energy. This raises the question of what contribution the paper industry can make to the energy transition. Battery storage would allow it to offer flexibility options for a sustainable energy supply based on fluctuating renewable sources. Last but not least, this would also open up economic potential for the industry.




Relevance of this field of application

The paper industry is one of the most energy-intensive basic industries and thus contributes significantly to the energy demand and CO2 emissions of the present. Around 412 million tonnes of paper, cardboard and paperboard were produced worldwide in 2019. After China, the USA and Japan, Germany is the fourth-largest producer with 22.1 million tonnes, the fourth-largest consumer with 18.9 million tonnes and the largest exporter worldwide with exports of 13.6 million tonnes. Packaging accounts for by far the largest share of total German production with 58 %, followed by graphic papers with 28 % and tissue papers with 7 %.1

The specific energy input for the production of paper, board and cardboard in Germany in 2020 was 2,743 kWh/t, of which 49% was accounted for by fossil fuels (mainly gas), 26% by alternative fuels (mainly residues from primary products), 16% by electricity and 9% by external heat. Some of the natural gas and alternative fuels are used in the paper mills for their own electricity generation, which increases the share of electricity in the total energy used to around 29 % (16.8 of 58.6 billion kWh).1 Worldwide, around 577 billion kWh of electricity was needed for paper production in 2020.2

The specific CO2 emissions amount to 555 kg/t and are thus at a similar level to the emissions of the cement industry (587 kg/t). However, the total emissions of the latter are a factor of ten higher than the emissions of the paper industry, in line with the global production volumes. However, the electricity-related CO2 emissions of the paper industry are higher, which is due to the significantly higher electricity demand during production: 786 kWh are required in Germany for the production of one tonne of paper, cardboard and paperboard, compared to 109 kWh for the production of one tonne of cement.1,3,4

Global demand for paper, cardboard and paperboard has increased in recent years. It is expected to continue to grow due to population and economic growth.2


1 Verband Deutscher Papierfabriken VDP (2021): Leistungsbericht Papier 2021.
Link ↗ (accessed 22.12.2021).

2 International Energy Agency IEA (2021): Pulp & Paper.
Link ↗ (accessed 22.12.2021).

3 Verein Deutscher Zementwerke VDZ (Hrsg.) (2017): Umwelt-Produktdeklaration nach ISO 14025 und EN 15804. Zement.
Link ↗ (accessed 22.12.2021).

4 Verein Deutscher Zementwerke VDZ (Hrsg.) (2021): Umweltdaten der deutschen Zementindustrie 2020.
Link ↗ (accessed 22.12.2021).

Use of battery storage

Paper has a reputation for meeting the goals of sustainable development to a high degree. Indeed, it is based on renewable raw materials, is easily recyclable and at the end of its life only releases as much CO2 as the raw materials removed from the atmosphere during their production. What is less well known, apart from the sometimes problematic origin of the raw materials, is that the production of paper, cardboard and paperboard requires enormous amounts of water and energy - and that the latter in Germany still comes to about half from fossil fuels.

With a total electricity demand of 16.8 billion kWh, the 91 companies in the German paper industry1 are among the major consumers of electrical energy. Whether and to what extent the industry can support the energy transition towards fluctuating, renewable sources by making its electricity demand more flexible over time is the subject of controversial debate.5,6,7 Regardless of this, battery storage would allow it to make a significant contribution to the integration of renewable energies into a sustainable energy system of the future: with their help, large amounts of electricity could be temporarily stored at a manageable number of locations - serving the grid and without disrupting production processes.

However, this would also have to be economically attractive for the companies. There are several starting points for this: An authentic sustainability orientation in combination with appropriate corporate communication could in itself lead to economic advantages in a highly competitive global market, which is increasingly confronted with demands from politicians and consumers for more sustainability. Legal incentive systems can ensure that sustainability-oriented action in the electricity market is reliably rewarded - although it is questionable whether the existing system can already do this sufficiently for the paper industry with its specific load profiles.

Finally, multiple use of battery storage can also serve to generate additional sources of revenue (through participation in the balancing energy market, etc.) for the companies.

5 Gruber, Anna-Maria (2017): Zeitlich und regional aufgelöstes industrielles Lastflexibilisierungspotenzial als Beitrag zur Integration Erneuerbarer Energien.
Link ↗ (accessed 22.12.2021).

6 Godin, Hélène (2019): Energiewende in der Industrie – Potenziale und Wechselwirkungen mit dem Energiesektor. Branchensteckbrief der Papierindustrie.
Link ↗ (accessed 22.12.2021).

7 Steurer, Martin (2017): Analyse von Demand Side Integration im Hinblick auf eine effiziente und umweltfreundliche Energieversorgung.
Link ↗ (accessed 22.12.2021).

Performance requirements

An ambitious sustainability orientation in production requires batteries that also meet high sustainability standards. This includes the renunciation of critical raw materials as well as a favourable eco-balance, for which the longevity of the batteries plays a decisive role.

Specific energy, fast-charging capability and deep discharge resistance are also important in this context, as the interaction of these factors decisively determines the correct dimensioning of the storage units and thus the raw material and energy requirements for their production.8

The economically attractive multiple use of battery storage systems goes hand in hand with a high cycle frequency. The prerequisite for their realisation is therefore storage systems that have a pronounced longevity.


8 Dusseldorp, Marc; Heinz, Sebastian; Lange, Christopher; Pohl, Sebastian (2021): Rightsizing – aber richtig! Auslegung von Batteriespeichern für mehr Nachhaltigkeit in der Energiewende.
Link ↗ (accessed 22.12.2021).

Market outlook

The market potential for battery storage in the paper industry results primarily from the flexibility potential that it should provide for the energy system. For example, if we assume the goal of being able to temporarily store 10% of the electricity drawn from the grid, i.e. not produced by the company itself, for 12 hours, this results in a temporary storage requirement of 1.84 GWh (based on 11.5 billion kWh and 7,500 operating hours).