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Securing critical minerals today for a clean energy system tomorrow (HCSS Geo-economics)

image credit: Credit: HCSS
Laurent Segalen's picture
CEO Megawatt-X

Laurent is a Franco-British financier, founder of Megawatt-X, the London-based global platform for Renewable Energy Assets. For the past twenty years, Laurent has been trading and managing...

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  • Aug 16, 2021 3:51 pm GMT
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Author: Jeff Amrish Ritoe, Editor: Michel Rademaker

The energy sector is responsible for producing roughly 75% of the world’s GHG emissions,
making it the forefront of the battle against global warming. There is, therefore, tremendous
pressure on both energy producers and energy consumers to increase the use of renewable
energy and other clean technology in the energy mix. By 2050 more than 60% of the installed
power capacity is predicted to come from solar pv plants, wind farms, hydropower plants and
large-scale batteries.
Building clean energy systems however requires an undisrupted supply of the raw materials
that are needed to produce clean energy applications. The International Energy Agency (IEA)
projects that by 2050 the demand for critical minerals coming from clean energy applications
will have to be increased with at least 400%. The larger part of that demand will come from
clean energy applications like electric vehicles and stationary energy storage using batteries.
The minerals to make these raw materials have become critical to the energy transition and
the ratification of CoP21 may turn out to be a tipping point for two industries that Europeans
have fallen out of love with: mining and chemical processing.
With little commercial mining and close to zero processing of critical minerals on its territory
today, Europe finds itself in a very vulnerable position. Although China is leading the game, it is
becoming apparent that no economic power will be able to build its supply chain entirely by
itself. Europe needs to be proactive and pragmatic as all major economic powers have now
formulated strategies to build their own and preferably local supply chains.
Although Europe has joined the game relatively late, it is in a good position to become an important player in the critical minerals supply chain due to its historically strong ties with most
of the resource rich countries. The chess game of securing access to critical minerals and
expanding local processing capacity has truly begun.
Alliances with resource rich countries will have to be forged, talent and expertise from all over
the world need to be attracted and capital needs to be deployed across the entirety of the
supply chain in order to succeed in this New Great Game.
 

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 16, 2021

Alliances with resource rich countries will have to be forged, talent and expertise from all over
the world need to be attracted and capital needs to be deployed across the entirety of the
supply chain in order to succeed in this New Great Game.

Care also needs to be taken to prevent exploitation and damaging mining practices that tend to filter in to resource-heavy but oversight-light countries. 

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Aug 19, 2021

The material needed will be coming from the new battery recycling. Tesla has started recycling their batteries, Redwood material runs by the former 2nd in commands J B Straubel is recycling the batteries and Li-cycle is building a factory in Arizona to recycle batteries. 

    Arizona is still one of the biggest copper mining states in the USA. Then we have telephone companies going all fiber optices and removing and recycling their Billions of miles in cooper cables.  It is all coming together just in time. 

Julian Jackson's picture
Julian Jackson on Aug 23, 2021

But where will these critical minerals come from? Many ores are depleted - copper and zinc, for example, and poorer ore quality means increased cost and energy expenditure (and therefore probably greater emissions) to recover these minerals, plus more tailings and waste to be considered. I can't see how production can be increased by 400% in these areas.

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