May 7, 2020 - Energy & Environment

IEA warns coronavirus could impact supply chains for clean energy materials

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Adapted from IEA; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The coronavirus crisis highlights why the security of supply of key minerals used in renewable power and electric vehicles can't be taken for granted, International Energy Agency analysts say in a new commentary.

Why it matters: Ample supplies of materials including copper, cobalt, lithium, molybdenum and more are needed for wind turbines, electric car batteries and other applications.

The big picture: "As the...pandemic has pushed many countries into some form of lockdown and hit mining operations across the globe, the risks around clean energy supply chains, including those of minerals, have come into sharper focus," states the commentary.

  • It warns of supply chain constraints that could complicate post-crisis growth of clean technologies.

The intrigue: The piece points out that geopolitical risks are hardly limited to familiar concerns about the concentration of oil and natural gas output.

  • "The production of many minerals that are central to energy transitions is more geographically concentrated than that of oil or natural gas," it states.
  • "For lithium, cobalt and various rare earths, the top three producers control well over three-quarters of global output."

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