Metal demand in the Energy Transition

Motivation

New technologies like windmills and solar panels are needed for sustainable electricity production. However, the production of these technologies will require large quantities of critical metals. In preparation for Springtij Forum 2018, we worked with Metabolic and Leiden University to provide insights into the metal demand of our Dutch energy transition.

Research question

What is the critical metal demand of the energy transition in the Netherlands, and what dependencies are involved in the widescale application of these metals?

Approach

  1. We started by creating insights into the quantities of solar panels and windmills that we want to have achieved in the Netherlands by 2030, based on the Paris Climate Agreement.
  2. We then determined the quantity of critical metals needed to produce these technologies, where these metals come from, and how our demand in the Netherlands relates to global annual production.
  3. In discussion with experts, we searched for the most important complexities in the chain, in order to gain more insight into the dependencies that may exist in the future.
  4. Based on this analysis, we have developed a number of solutions, including the more circular design of solar panels and windmills and the arrangement of a European recycling industry.

Status

Completed

Results

The current production of certain critical metals is insufficient for the rapid global production of solar panels and windmills. Specifically, this is the case for dysprosium, neodymium and praseodymium (for permanent magnets in windmills), and for terbium and indium (for solar panels). If the Netherlands is to achieve our targets in the Paris Climate Agreement, we will need about 1 to 2% of the global annual production of these five metals by 2030, while only accounting for 0.5% of the global energy consumption.

Related Publications

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