The supply of critical minerals, which are vital to technologies such as wind turbines and electric vehicles, must increase over the next few decades if the planet’s climate goals are to be met, according to the International Energy Agency.
A new report by the Paris-based organization entitled “The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transition,” released Wednesday, looks at the importance of nickel, cobalt, lithium, copper and rare earth elements.
In a statement accompanying the publication of the report, the IEA explained how much the need for these materials could increase in the future.
“The outlook for demand and supply vulnerabilities vary widely depending on the mineral,” it said. “However, the energy sector’s total demand for critical minerals could increase six-fold by 2040, depending on how quickly governments move forward to cut emissions.”
In a sign of how the move to renewable energy plants will put pressure on critical mineral supplies, the IEA said an onshore wind turbine needs “nine times more natural resources than a similarly sized gas-fired power plant.”
Governments around the world are setting targets to reduce emissions and increase renewable energy installations. A number of goals aim to use wind and solar energy as a critical tool in moving away from fossil fuels. The reality on the ground shows that such a step represents a significant challenge for many countries that requires enormous change.
Despite the size of the task, some shifts are slowly but surely taking place. In late April, for example, the US Department of Energy announced it had allocated $ 13 million to 13 projects to produce rare earth elements and critical minerals.
The projects will be located in the communities designated by the DOE as “traditionally fossil fuel-producing communities”. Rare earth elements and critical minerals are “crucial for the manufacture of batteries, magnets and other components that are important for the clean energy industry”.
As the demand for these materials is only going to increase, some hurdles need to be overcome. For its part, the IEA has highlighted a number of potential challenges.
This includes supply chains that are described as “complex and sometimes opaque”. the high material concentration in a few countries; Stricter environmental and social standards are expected from manufacturers. and a decline in the quality of the deposits available.
“Today, the data shows an emerging mismatch between increased global climate efforts and the availability of critical minerals that are essential to realizing those ambitions,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, in a statement.
“The challenges are not insurmountable, but the governments must give clear signals how they want to implement their climate protection promises,” added Birol.
“By acting now and together, you can significantly reduce the risk of price volatility and supply disruptions,” he said.
Birol went on to say that the potential vulnerabilities, if not addressed, “could make global progress toward a clean energy future slower and more costly”. This, in turn, would hamper global efforts to combat climate change, he claimed.
The IEA report contains six key recommendations for a “new, comprehensive approach to mineral safety”.
These include expanding recycling, promoting technological innovation, strengthening supply chain resilience and market transparency, and ensuring “appropriate investment in diversified sources for new supplies”.