IEA to focus on 'critical' battery materials amid supply chain 'strains' warning

by Margaret Lau
'Pivotal year' for clean energy technologies - Dr Fatih Birol. Photo: IEA
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has said security of supply of critical materials for the global battery industry will be a key focus for the agency this year.

IEA executive director Dr Fatih Birol told a press conference that 2021 could be a "pivotal year” for clean energy technologies, with increased use expected of renewables, batteries and hydrogen.

However, Birol warned greater use of batteries and other technologies as part of a global clean energy transition could trigger "strains” in supply chains.

"This year, we will focus on ensuring clean energy technologies can rely on sufficient supplies of critical minerals – such as lithium, cobalt and nickel for batteries and rare elements used in wind turbines and electric vehicles – and ensure that they are produced responsibly,” Birol said.

Global study

"There may be significant increases in demand for these minerals, putting strains on supply and there could be some geopolitical implications as well.”

Birol said the IEA will release a "comprehensive global study” of critical materials in April, which he said would "explore potential implications for policymakers”.

Last October, the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2020 study said a doubling of global battery manufacturing capacity every two years, over the next decade, could help put CO2 emissions "on track for net zero” by 2050.

A separate study, published by the IEA and European Patent Office, said patenting activity in batteries and other electricity storage technologies grew at an average annual rate of 14% worldwide between 2005 and 2018 – four times faster than the average of all technology fields.

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