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  • By Admin
  • March 8, 2024

The global energy system today is making a major transition to clean energy. Countries and companies alike are aiming to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by the year 2050. There is a call for the massive deployment of a wide range of clean energy technologies, many of which rely on critical minerals such as copper, lithium, nickel, cobalt, and rare earth elements. These elements are the necessary building blocks for developing electric vehicles, power networks, wind turbines, and solar panels.

Energy systems fueled by conventional hydrocarbon resources are very different from ones driven by clean energy technology. In general, more essential minerals are needed to construct solar PV facilities, wind farms, and electric automobiles than they are for their fossil fuel-based counterparts. An offshore wind farm needs thirteen times more mineral resources than a gas-fired plant of the same size, and the average electric car needs six times as much mineral input as a conventional automobile. Since 2010, as the fraction of renewables in new investment has increased, the average amount of mineral resources required for a new unit of power generation capacity has climbed by 50%.

The technology industry has also utilized different mineral resources as it strives to keep up with demand. For batteries to function properly, lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese, and graphite are essential. Permanent magnets, which are utilized in EV motors and wind turbines, require rare earth elements. Aluminum and copper are essential to power networks; the latter is the building block of all technology related to electricity.

Countries must make sure energy networks continue to be secure and robust as they step up efforts to cut emissions. Even with an electrified energy system heavily dependent on renewable energy sources, worries about price volatility, supply security, and the shifting tides of geopolitics persist. This, and the growing significance of essential minerals in a decarbonizing energy system necessitates that energy policy makers broaden their perspectives and consider possible novel vulnerabilities.

Image Credit, Todd Helmenstine, sciencenotes.org