Mineral Foundations of the Energy Transition

Implications of energy transition on increased demand for minerals and the impacts on markets, trade, security, communities, geopolitics, prices, and technology development

Implications of energy transition on increased demand for minerals and the impacts on markets, trade, security, communities, geopolitics, prices, and technology development

Dr. Morgan Bazilian – congressional testimony to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the United States Senate -September 17, 2019

The current energy transformations now occurring globally—towards increased electrification, and low-carbon technologies, such as electric vehicles, fuel cells, wind turbines and solar photovoltaics (PV) rely on significant quantities of minerals and metals. The implications of increasing mineral demand has broad ramifications that go well beyond the energy and extractives sector.

Background

Calls for a Green New Deal and energy transition are coming from many global stakeholders. Less understood are the significant quantities of minerals that will be needed to fuel that transition.  Examples include the rare earths neodymium and dysprosium for magnets in high-efficiency motors; lithium, cobalt, nickel and vanadium in energy storage; and platinum-group elements in catalysts and fuel cells. To supply the necessary minerals the mining industry is confronted with numerous challenges related to environment, innovation, investment, social license to operate among others.

Additionally, (or most) of the countries with the largest potentials (and existing markets) for these minerals are emerging and developing economies. This creates further concerns around governance and a changing geopolitical landscape. How this changing demand affects markets, trade, security, geopolitics, prices, and technology development are key questions to that require further exploration.

As one of the leading energy engineering universities in the world, Colorado School of Mines and the Payne Institute is facilitating an integrated approach to the technical and policy challenges related to the mineral foundations of the energy transition.  Through research and collaboration with industry, government and other stakeholders, Mines is providing research and data to support decision-making and further consideration of the topic.

NEWS

Global Energy Politics June 1, 2020

GLOBAL ENERGY POLITICS

Payne Institute Fellow Thijs Van de Graaf has a new book that uncovers the intricate ways in which our energy systems have shaped global outcomes in four key areas of world politics: security, the economy, the environment and global justice. We are on the cusp of a global energy shift that promises to be no less transformative for the pursuit of wealth and power in world politics than the historical shifts from wood to coal and from coal to oil. This ongoing energy transformation will not only upend the global balance of power; it could also fundamentally transfer political authority away from the nation state, empowering citizens, regions and local communities. June 1, 2020.

Steel, Hydrogen And Renewables: Strange Bedfellows? Maybe Not… 5/15/2020

STEEL, HYDROGEN AND RENEWABLES: STRANGE BEDFELLOWS? MAYBE NOT…

Payne Institute Fellow Dolf Gielen and Advisory Board member Kenneth Medlock write that as firms and nations increasingly adopt “net zero” carbon ambitions, some sectors of the economy stand out as more difficult in meeting those goals, particularly industrial activities that require very high temperatures and/or generate process emissions associated with chemical transformations. While these sectors present challenges towards deep decarbonization, new opportunities are emerging rapidly. A future low-carbon energy system will likely be more material-intensive than the current one, and in virtually any vision of a net-zero carbon future there is a massive need for new infrastructure.  May 15, 2020.  

The Geostrategic Importance of Outer Space Resources 5/15/2020

THE GEOSTRATEGIC IMPORTANCE OF OUTER SPACE RESOURCES

Payne Institute Fellow Alex Gilbert and Morgan Bazilian look at space mining, and if it is the final frontier?  The world may be heading towards the greatest mining rush in history—in outer space. Falling costs and greater access to space launch services, coupled with new technologies, are leading to the establishment of numerous companies in this nascent industry.  May 15, 2020.

The Coronavirus Reaffirms the Importance of Sustainable Development in Mining 5/13/2020

THE CORONAVIRUS REAFFIRMS THE IMPORTANCE OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN MINING

Payne Research Associate Jordy Lee and Morgan Bazilian explain why disruptions from COVID-19 can have larger implications for developing nations that are dependent on the mining industry. Without an overt focus on sustainable development, many counties will continue to suffer from market fluctuations and price volatility. May 13, 2020. 

COVID-19 has tested governments around the world – here’s what that means for the energy transition 5/13/2020

COVID-19 HAS TESTED GOVERNMENTS AROUND THE WORLD – HERE’S WHAT THAT MEANS FOR THE ENERGY TRANSITION

Payne Institute Advisory Board member David Victor and Payne Director Morgan Bazilian write about how the world is ensconced in a global public health crisis due to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus, and the related economic crisis and oil market crash, the path to a low-carbon future has become more uncertain.  It is more critical than ever to look at countries’ readiness for the energy transition.  May 13, 2020.

Fostering Effective Energy Transition 5/13/2020

FOSTERING EFFECTIVE ENERGY TRANSITION – 2020 EDITION

The Payne Institute contributed to the World Economic Forum Platform for Shaping the Future of Energy and Materials.  The annual benchmarking of energy systems across countries has enabled tracking the speed and direction of their energy transition and identifying opportunities for improvement. The transformation of the energy system over the past decade, although slower than required to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement to combat climate change, has been significant. But this hard‑earned momentum now risks being lost, as the ongoing COVID‑19 pandemic continues to cause economic and social damage.  May 13, 2020.  

THE DEFENSE PRODUCTION ACT, COVID-19 AND CRITICAL MATERIALS 4/30/2020

THE DEFENSE PRODUCTION ACT, COVID-19 AND CRITICAL MATERIALS

As the Coronavirus continues to demonstrate the fragility of commodity supply-chains, further use of the Defense Production Act (DPA) could allow for the United States to develop its domestic critical mineral sources. Mining and processing locations across the world are being disrupted and highlight the United States’ heavy reliance on imported critical minerals. April 30, 2020.

ENERGY TRANSITION: COAL AS THE CANARY 4/23/2020

ENERGY TRANSITION: COAL AS THE CANARY

The Covid-19 pandemic has presented a range of pressing economic challenges including unemployment, lost wages and volatile stock markets. Stalled economic activity has also temporarily reduced energy demand and pollution levels around the world. While the coronavirus creates acute, emergency needs for many households and communities, the kinds of social safety net measures that can cushion the impact in this current crisis have similarities to those needed for longer-term clean energy transitions. Recovery from this pandemic may offer opportunities to recover with a lower-carbon and more equitable economy.  April 23, 2020. 

SUSCEPTIBILITIES OF SOLAR ENERGY SUPPLY CHAINS 4/16/2020

SUSCEPTIBILITIES OF SOLAR ENERGY SUPPLY CHAINS

Payne student Anna Evans explains why the novel coronavirus outbreak in China disrupted the global solar panel supply chain, and how the virus’ increasing impacts will affect supply and demand. Without thoughtful policy design and implementation at the sub-national, national, and international level, these disruptions could continue to plague the solar industry. April 16, 2020.

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For more information about the Mineral Foundations of the Energy Transition Initiative at the Payne Institute for Public Policy, please contact our Strategy and Operations Manager, Greg Clough, at gclough@mines.edu.