World - Rare Earth Metals – How to Limit the Impact of the Clean Energy Transition?
With demand for rare earth metals set to skyrocket to support new energy technologies, how can the world transition to sustainable energy sustainably?
Rare earth elements are a group of 17 metals commonly used for their optical and magnetic properties in, for example, lighting, medical radiographs and catalytic converters.
To meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, the European Commission has recently highlighted the substantial amounts of neodymium and dysprosium, alongside metals such as graphite and nickel, needed for renewables and e-mobility by 2050, its target date for net zero emissions in the bloc.
Because of the transition to low-carbon technologies, demand for rare earths is expected to shoot up. More and more, rare earth metals are being used in sustainable energy applications such as wind power generation and electric vehicles, via permanent magnets containing the metals.
Wind turbines with a direct drive permanent magnet synchronous generator (DD-PMSG) are efficient at low wind-speed sites, are lighter and cheaper to maintain. In EV powertrains, the PM technology leads to compact sizes and greater efficiency, which has sparked a surge in demand. In 2019, 82% of all EV powertrains used PM technology compared to 79% in 2015.