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.


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.




Payne Institute Senior Research Associate Sara Hastings-Simon contributes to this report from the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices that highlights the multiple facets of clean growth by unpacking the connections between economic growth, climate change, and human well-being. We identify 11 data-driven indicators that, together, can guide efforts by governments, businesses, and communities to not only tackle climate change but to do so in a way that achieves sustained growth and the best overall outcomes for people and society as a whole.  September 22, 2020.  

BP Releases Energy Outlook 9/14/2020

BP Releases Energy Outlook

Payne Institute Fellow Michael Cohen, Chief U.S. Economist and Head of Oil Analysis at BP, produced the Energy Outlook that explores the forces shaping the global energy transition out to 2050 and the key uncertainties surrounding that transition. The global energy system is likely to undergo a fundamental restructuring in order to decarbonize, which will create challenges and opportunities for the industry. Three main scenarios – Rapid, Net Zero, and Business-as-usual – provide a range of possible outcomes to understand the range of uncertainties ahead.  September 14, 2020. 

Mines researcher contributing to $4M DOE project for energy-efficient steelmaking 9/9/2020

Mines researcher contributing to $4M DOE project for energy-efficient steelmaking

Payne Institute Faculty Fellow Sridhar Seetharaman has been awarded a $4 million dollar grant to prove the economic viability of increased renewal energy usage in steel production.  Researchers believe the de-carbonization of the steel industry can be achieved by connecting ironmaking to renewable electric power through electrolytically produced hydrogen.  September 9, 2020.



Payne Fellow Todd Moss, Morgan Bazilian, Jacob Kincer, and John Ayaburi write about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 7 that commits the world to ending energy poverty by “ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all by 2030.” The dominant measurement of progress against SDG7 is the access rate, which measures the number of people with basic household electricity. There is no accepted international indicator for reliability. A new approach will help to fill this gap. September 8, 2020.

Bouncing Forward Sustainably: Pathways to a post-COVID World Sustainable Energy 8/31/2020

Bouncing Forward Sustainably: Pathways to a post-COVID World Sustainable Energy

Payne Institute Director Morgan Bazilian was a co-author on the Second Consultative Science Platform of the IIASA-ISC “Bouncing Forward Sustainably: Pathways to a post-COVID-19 World” that aims to harness the transformative power of crisis to imagine a more sustainable world. The authors gathered with a focus on science -to deliberate on the following overarching questions: How should COVID-19 and related stimulus and/or recovery packages be directed to build back better to create the maximum impact on the  transition to sustainable development; and how can a decarbonized, decentralized, and digitalized energy system make our society more resilient? How can the ability of science, policy and governance systems be enhanced to rapidly respond to unforeseen shocks? August 31, 2020.

Energy vs. Climate podcast 8/21/2020

Energy vs. Climate Podcast

Payne Institute Senior Research Associate Sara Hastings-Simon, David Keith, and Ed Whittingham break down the trade-offs and hard truths of the energy transition in Alberta, Canada, and beyond in a series of podcasts.  August 21, 2020. 

Is the Texas Tesla factory a tipping point? Linking mining to electric vehicle manufacturing will bring jobs to South 8/5/2020


Payne Institute Fellow Emily Hersh and Jesse Edmondson write an opinion piece about Tesla’s announcement to build a new manufacturing hub in Austin for the production of the Cybertruck, Semi and the Model Y is the latest and greatest in what has been a growing trend to bring the electric vehicle supply chain to the southern United States. This represents of billions of dollars in investment that will create thousands of jobs. States traditionally dominated by conservative politics have an opportunity to embrace the future of American green energy.  August 5, 2020. 

Sumit Agarwal named 2020 AVS Fellow 7/24/2020

Sumit Agarwal named 2020 AVS Fellow

Payne Institute Faculty Fellow Sumit Agarwal has been named a 2020 AWS Fellow.  Fellowship recognizes AVS members who have made sustained and outstanding technical contributions throughout their careers to research, engineering, technical advancement, academic education or technical management in the areas of basic science, technology development and commercialization of materials, interfaces and processing.  July 24, 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.