Assessing the impact of global mitigation pathways on non renewable raw materials

Non-renewable raw materials play a crucial role in clean energy technologies and the global transition to mitigate climate change. The demand for these materials is expected to rise due to increased energy and industrial product needs, nevertheless the supply and demand of these materials are often overlooked in climate change scenarios.

However, there is an increasing number of scenario assessments on metal and mineral demands in clean energy transition but these typically don’t include analysis on NETPs and their non-renewable metal demands.

In this recent NEGEM report, researchers at VTT focused on assessing metal and mineral demands, specifically examining Negative Emission Technologies and Practices. The scenarios were modeled using the TIMES-VTT Integrated Assessment Model (IAM), with a reference scenario based on Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and two ambitious mitigation scenarios to limit global warming to 1.5-2 °C.

Literature on material demand and metal intensities of low-carbon technologies and NETPs was explored, including BECCS, PyCCS, and DACCS to different extents as novel NETPs elements in the scenario analysis.

Key results

Long-term climate change mitigation efforts as outlined in recent assessments may be threatened by the availability of non-renewable metals and minerals, required by the key technologies needed globally. 

In these scenarios raw material demand is strongly driven by the material needs of the clean energy transition, including the rollout of electric vehicles and different renewable energy technologies, like wind and solar power.  

According to the NEGEM scenario results, availability may become an issue particularly with cobalt and dysprosium, which are used in batteries and wind power plants respectively. 

Due to the expected demand of copper and silver by several energy technologies, the supply of these metals might constrain the future investments on clean energy technologies and infrastructures

When those boundary conditions are considered in the scenarios, as the renewable energy deployment will be constrained by the lack of raw materials, the demand of NETPs could increase even further, to compensate for additional greenhouse gas emissions to reach the 1.5-2 °C mitigation target. 

However, the study also indicates a lack of detailed data on mineral needs of several key NETs and leaves open questions that may have an impact on the demand of metals. In addition, there is lacking information on raw material needs for infrastructure expansion, including CO2 pipelines.

Further research is needed to create reliable low-carbon scenarios based on NETPs, as well as policy roadmaps and action plans.

Read the full report

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