Decarbonization and green technologies will not make the world an environmentally better place unless we closely monitor and control the supply of raw materials needed for this transition. And the metals and minerals that renewables, EVs, and other green tech require are vastly different in scale and composition from our current use. That’s the message of a landmark 285-page report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) published last week.
“The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions” (hereafter, “Critical Minerals”) is a key flagship study underpinning the IEA’s ambition later this year to outline the material, financial and other requirements for a global roadmap to decarbonization by 2050. Thus, Critical Minerals aggregates the best-available current evidence on the supply and demand for copper, nickel, lithium, cobalt, rare earths, silicon, and several other materials crucial to clean-energy technologies.
The report shows that current mineral supply chains are inadequate to meet the emerging tsunami of demand associated with decarbonization. This risks delays, rising costs and inefficiencies, as well as social injustices. But Critical Minerals also shows that these risks can be addressed through smart and global collaboration. It is a wake-up call to Japan, and all other countries committed to decarbonization, to undertake immediate and comprehensive policy changes.
Energy Transition Materials
Critical Minerals is clearly written because it seeks to communicate a message of utmost importance to a COVID-weary world seemingly inured by warnings of precarious supply-chains. The material basis of 21st century energy security is rapidly shifting from fossil fuels to a few dozen critical minerals that compose clean energy technology.
IEA’s analysis shows just how different the raw materials sensitivities will be by breaking down the mix needed for new and existing technologies.