Critical Materials for the Energy Transition: Rare Earth Elements

May  2022
ISBN : 978-92-9260-437-0

The technical paper on Critical Materials for the Energy Transition emphasises that an accelerated energy transition requires a growing supply of critical materials, with Chapter 7 of the IRENA’s World Energy Transition Outlook 2022 further elaborating on these materials. IRENA continues to publish technical papers on groups of critical materials: the first one focuses on lithium and this second paper focuses on rare earth elements.

The rare earths are a group of 17 chemical elements, several of which are critical for the energy transition. While conventional energy also relies on rare earths, the mix of energy-relevant rare earths that are needed going forward differs from the past.

This technical paper examines demand and market growth projections for electric vehicles and wind turbines and explores the efficiency of rare earths’ use. It pays special attention to patent activity in magnets around the world. On the supply side, it explores: the outlook for the mining and processing of rare earths; current costs and their implications; and approaches to enhance the security of rare earth elements supply. The paper also delves deeper into the opportunities that innovation can play in reducing dependency on rare earths and discusses related policy implications.