Rare earth shortage to hamper EU energy

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Last updated: 16 Nov 2011

Shortage of rear earth metals are at a particularly high risk, with special relevance to the wind and photovoltaic energy generation technologies.

15 November 2011 Rare earth shortage to hamper EU clean energy Five rear earth metals, essential for manufacturing low-carbon technologies, show a high risk of shortage, according to a new report from European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC). Reasons for this lie in Europe's dependency on imports, increasing global demand, supply concentration and geopolitical issues. Samples of rare-earth oxides © Wikipedia.com. Author: Peggy Greb, US department of agriculture. Scientists at the JRC examined the use of raw materials, especially metals, in the six priority low- carbon energy technologies of the Commission's Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan): nuclear, solar, wind, bio-energy, carbon capture and storage and electricity grids. The study concluded that five metals - tellurium, indium, gallium, neodymium and dysprosium - are at a particularly high risk, with special relevance to the wind and photovoltaic energy generation technologies. The findings were that a large-scale deployment of solar energy technologies, for example, will require half the current world supply of tellurium and 25 percent of the supply of indium. At the same time, the envisaged deployment of wind energy technology in Europe will require large amounts of neodymium and dysprosium for permanent magnet generators. To avoid or mitigate shortage of these metals, for instance through recycling, increasing Europe's own production of such metals and by developing of alternative technologies that rely on more common materials, the report considers. However, the metals are not easily recyclable or substitutable. In the near future the JRC will conduct similar studies on other energy technologies that also use critical metals, such as electric vehicles, electricity storage, lighting and fuel cells. Sources: Joint Research Centre JRC Report Related: New emission limits force a reshuffle in China's rear earth industry
Posted: 15 November 2011, last updated 16 November 2011

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