At the beginning of May, the International Energy Agency (IEA) presented a new study. In it, she calculates the growing demand for mineral raw materials that is necessary for the implementation of the global energy transition. On the occasion of the study presentation in Paris, Fatih Birol, head of the IEA, spoke of “a looming mismatch” between the increasingly stringent climate targets and the availability of critical minerals and rare earths, including lithium, dysprosium and terbium.
The IEA study makes it clear that sustainable energy systems based on clean technologies differ significantly from previous energy systems. For example, a land-based wind farm consumes nine times more mineral raw materials than a comparable gas-fired power plant, and an electric car consumes around six times more than a combustion engine. The biggest driver of electric cars is the mineral raw material demand for batteries, which, according to the IEA, will increase thirtyfold by 2040.
Tim Gould, British economist and one of the authors of the study, is quoted by Deutschlandfunk with another impressive figure: “If we make every effort to achieve our current climate targets, we will need at least four times as much mineral for renewable energy sources in 2040 as we do today. And if we want to get to zero in CO2 emissions by 2050, it’s even six times as much.” (*)
It is obvious that these developments also have an impact on the economic value of mineral raw materials. According to the IEA study, “the commercial importance of these minerals also grow rapidly”. Although today the profit in energy production from coal is still ten times higher than in energy production from mineral substances, this ratio would be reversed by 2040 if the global climate targets remain unchanged.
“The challenges are not insurmountable,” says IEA chief Birol, “but governments must give clear signals about how they plan to turn their climate pledges into action. By acting now and acting together, they can significantly reduce the risks of price volatility and supply disruptions.”
(*) Translations TRADIUM editorial team
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