The African Climate Foundation
Geopolitics Of Critical Minerals In Renewable Energy Supply Chains
Addressing the climate change crisis calls for an accelerated deployment of renewableenergy technologies – solar panels and wind turbines – as well as a shift towards electric vehicles (EV) (Bainton et al., 2021). The manufacturing of these technologies, however, relies on the availability and supply of different types of critical minerals. Lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese and graphite are crucial to battery performance, longevity and energy density. Rare earth elements (REEs) are essential for permanent magnets, which are vital for wind turbines and EV motors. Electricity networks need a huge amount of copper and aluminium, with copper being a cornerstone of all electricity-related technologies (IEA, 2021). The production of lithium and cobalt may increase by 500% by 2050 to meet clean energy demand alone. The bottom line is that clean-energy technologies and related infrastructures require more minerals (World Bank, 2017 and 2020).