CHICAGO - Five rare earth elements have been identified by the US. Department of Energy along with indium as the most critical metals for clean energy technologies and supply risk.
The rare earths - dysprosium, neodymium, terbium, europium and yttrium - were named as part of the 171-page "Critical Materials Strategy" examining the role of rare earths and other materials in the clean energy economy. "Criticality" was defined as a measure combining importance to the clean economy and risk of supply disruption.
The strategy document was based on research by the department during the past year, officials said. Technologies examined in the report include wind turbines, electric vehicles, solar cells and energy-efficient lighting.
According to an executive summary, the report found that several energy technologies - among them wind turbines, electric vehicles, photovoltaic cells and fluorescent lighting - use materials that are at risk of supply disruptions in the medium and long term.
The analysis also found that clean energy technologies currently account for about 20% of global consumption of critical materials but that as clean energy technologies are deployed more widely in coming decades this share will likely grow.
The report's authors concluded that sound policies and strategic investments could reduce the risk of supply disruptions, especially for the medium and long term. They said data on many of the issues identified in the report was sparse, however. Plans for further work on the subject and updated critical material strategy by the end of next year are also planned, officials said.
The strategy calls for diversified global supply chains, taking steps to facilitate extraction, processing and manufacturing in the United States, development of substitutes and research into recycling.
"This strategy is an important step in planning for growing global demand for clean energy products that help strengthen the US economy and create jobs," Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said in a statement. "Ensuring reliable access to critical materials will help the United States in the new clean energy economy."
Phil Burgert is managing editor of ResourceInvestor.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.