Business Energy Broker
A new report from IEA highlights the essential role rare minerals have to produce clean energy technologies.
The resources required to have an energy network that is fully powered from clean energy sources will be distinguishable from their traditional fossil equivalents. The largest sources of clean energy, Solar Photovoltaic (PV) and Wind farms, require a significant amount of minerals more to construct. As the share of renewable energy had increased in the generation mix, minerals required for a unit of generation has increased by 50% since 2010 as IEA’s report statistics show.
A further example shows that Electric Vehicles (EVs) require 6x the quantity of mineral input compared to an average combustion engine vehicle. This is due to the addition copper and manganese required for the batteries to power the EVs with additional material such as graphite and nickel.
Core minerals such as lithium, copper and manganese are essential for the batteries used to power our technologies. This applies to smaller-scale electronics such as plug sockets or a wire as copper is the key component to any connection. It also takes rare materials to produce the magnets required in our wind turbines and EVs.
Making the changes required to meet global net-zero goals, the demand for such minerals will skyrocket with the energy sector becoming the biggest consumer of these essential materials. This raises new challenges in an already challenging goal of decarbonising energy systems. As such, policymakers need to address the vulnerability of the mineral market to reduce the risk of losing the security of supply and price irregularity.
The IEA’s near-term analysis show that minerals such as raw lithium and cobalt will be in surplus, however, with the projected demand increase rare minerals, chemical lithium and battery-grade nickel will face supply shortages. So the supply of key resources required for net-zero will fall behind climate goal targets.
Although methods are yet to be established, the recycling of material could ease the pressure of mineral security similar to the way bulk metals can be recycled to relieve primary supplies. EV batteries have a limited life cycle and the number of batteries reaching this limit is expected to surge in 2030. By recycling these technologies we reduce the need for new supply and primary supply requirements by 10% as projected for 2040.