The role of critical minerals in clean energy transitions

IEA (2021) The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions, IEA, Paris

Minerals are essential components in many of today’s rapidly growing clean energy technologies, from wind turbines and electricity networks to electric vehicles. Demand for these minerals will grow quickly as clean energy transitions gather pace.

In a scenario that meets the Paris Agreement goals, clean energy technologies’ share of total demand rises significantly over the next two decades to over 40% for copper and rare earth elements, 60-70% for nickel and cobalt, and almost 90% for lithium. EVs and battery storage have already displaced consumer electronics to become the largest consumer of lithium and are set to take over from stainless steel as the largest end user of nickel by 2040.

This new World Energy Outlook Special Report provides analysis of the complex links between these minerals and the prospects for a secure, rapid transformation of the energy sector. Alongside detail on mineral demand prospects under different technology and policy assumptions, it examines whether today’s mineral investments can meet the needs of a swiftly changing energy sector. It considers the task ahead to promote responsible and sustainable development of mineral resources, and offers insights for policy makers, including six key IEA recommendations for a new, comprehensive approach to mineral security:

  1. Ensure adequate investment in diversified sources of new supply
  2. Promote technology innovation at all points along the value chain
  3. Scale up recycling
  4. Enhance supply chain resilience and market transparency
  5. Mainstream higher environmental, social and governance standards
  6. Strengthen international collaboration between producers and consumers

The full report can be found here.