Europe must act fast to secure supplies of crucial metals required for a green energy transition and its best bet is to recycle, a report said Monday.
The 27-nation EU aims to be “carbon neutral” by 2050 — reducing greenhouse gases to a level where the amount produced is balanced out by the amount removed from the atmosphere.
The bloc also wants to wean itself off dependence on Russian oil, coal and gas.
To this end, it is seeking not only to use less energy but also to increase the amount of energy generated domestically from renewable resources.
That includes producing electric vehicles and batteries, bringing in more wind, solar and hydrogen technologies, and creating infrastructure to distribute this clean power.
But expanding clean technologies will require substantial inputs of raw metals and — in initial stages at least — much of this will probably have to be imported, according to the study by Belgium’s KU Leuven university.
To bring carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions down to “net zero” by 2050, the EU will need “35 times more lithium” than it uses today and “seven to 26 times the amount of increasingly scarce rare earth metals”, the “Metals for Clean Energy” report said.
The energy transition will also require far greater annual supplies of aluminium, copper, silicon, nickel and cobalt.
– Invest now in recycling –
Europe could be self-sufficient for 40 to 75 percent of its clean energy metal needs by 2050 if it invests heavily now in recycling infrastructure and cuts red tape, said the report, commissioned by the European association of metal producers and recyclers, Eurometaux.