The potential risks from metals bottlenecks to the deployment of Strategic Energy Technologies

This paper examines the use of materials, in particular metals, in six low-carbon energy technologies of the European Union’s Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan), namely nuclear, solar, wind, bioenergy, carbon capture and storage and electricity grids. The projected average annual demand for metals in the SET-Plan technologies for the decades up to 2020 and 2030 is compared to the known global production volume in 2010. From an initial inventory of over 50 metals, 14 metals were identified that will require 1% or more of the 2010 world supply per annum between 2020 and 2030. These 14 metals are cadmium, dysprosium, gallium, hafnium, indium, molybdenum, neodymium, nickel, niobium, selenium, silver, tellurium, tin and vanadium. These metals were examined further by analysing the effect of market and geo-political factors of supply and demand, which highlighted five metals to represent a high risk to large-scale technology deployment, namely: neodymium, dysprosium, indium, tellurium and gallium. The five metals were further analysed with respect to the wind and solar sectors, showing that the demand of these metals could increase significantly depending on future sub-technology choices. Mitigation strategies to alleviate potential shortages are also discussed, e.g. extending primary output; re-use, re-cycling and waste reduction; and substitution. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.