‘EU needs to recycle more to meet green energy goals’
Police officers protect the access roads to the Garzweiler open pit mine during a demonstration near Luetzerath, Germany, on April 23.
Europe must act fast to secure supplies of crucial metals required for a green energy transition and its best bet is to recycle, a report said yesterday.
The 27-nation EU aims to be “carbon neutral” by 2050 and also wants to wean itself off dependence on Russian oil, coal and gas.
To this end, it is seeking not only to use less energy but also to increase the amount of energy generated domestically from renewable resources.
But expanding clean technologies will require substantial inputs of raw metals and - in initial stages at least - much of this will probably have to be imported, according to the study by Belgium’s KU Leuven university.
To bring carbon dioxide emissions down to “net zero” by 2050, the EU will need “35 times more lithium” than it uses today and “seven to 26 times the amount of increasingly scarce rare earth metals”, the report said.
The energy transition will also require far greater annual supplies of aluminum, copper, silicon, nickel and cobalt.
Europe could be self-sufficient for 40 to 75 percent of its clean energy metal needs by 2050 if it invests heavily now in recycling infrastructure and cuts red tape, said the report.
Dependence on metals
For now, the EU remains import-dependent for much of these metals and, the study warns, “there is growing concern about the security of supply”.
“Europe needs to decide urgently how it will bridge its looming supply gap for primary metals. Without a decisive strategy, it risks new dependencies on unsustainable suppliers,” said lead author Liesbet Gregoir.
China and India, which rely on coal power for metal production, are set to dominate global markets for battery metals and rare earths.
Europe relies on Russia today for aluminum nickel and copper.
If it is to meet climate and social goals, Europe will need to find external suppliers with better environmental and rights records, the report said.