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New report highlights risk of rare earth metal shortages

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A new report fron European Commission's Joint Research Center revealed that five metals, essential for manufacturing low-carbon technologies, show a high risk of shortage.

Reasons for this lie in Europe's dependency on imports, increasing global demand, supply concentration and geopolitical issues.

Scientists at the JRC's Institute for Energy and Transport (IET) examined the use of raw materials, especially metals, in the six priority low-carbon energy technologies of the Commission's SET-Plan: nuclear, solar, wind, bio-energy, carbon capture and storage and electricity grids.

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% 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.

The report considers possible strategies 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.

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.

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