Webinar series: Critical Materials for the Energy Transition

Energy transition in line with the IRENA 1.5°C pathway can substantially raise demand for certain minerals and metals used in batteries, electric motors, wind turbines, or solar PV panels. The prices of these materials have increased substantially in recent months, which has affected the prices of these goods. Reasons for these price increases are manifold and include hikes in energy and transportation costs, but scarcity and investor stockpiling also play a role. Critical materials have therefore emerged as an important topic in the energy transition and a better understanding of the market dynamics is becoming a priority.

To accompany activities under the Collaborative Framework on the Critical Materials for the Energy Transition, IRENA has launched a webinar series to share insights from IRENA’s and our member countries and partners’ analytical work to better understand and enhance transparency along the supply chain of individual minerals, market dynamics on the supply and demand side, circular economy concepts, the role of innovation and the environmental and sustainability aspects of mining.

Upcoming webinars

Past webinars

07 September 2022 | Virtual

Do We Have a Lithium Supply Problem?

Lithium is critical to the energy transition, particularly for EV batteries. Lithium prices have surged a staggering 438% over last year reaching new record levels and will likely remain high for some time as supply growth lags behind demand growth.

Lithium is produced from brine or from hard-rock ore. Mining is concentrated in Australia, Chile and China, but new mines are being developed in many countries across the world. China also dominates on the processing side, but new processing capacity is being developed close to mining sites elsewhere. Battery grade lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide are key products in the context of the energy transition. Lithium hydroxide is better suited for the next generation of EV batteries, already used in batteries with NMC 811 and other nickel-rich cathodes. LFP cathode production requires lithium carbonate. It is likely both will continue to be deployed but their market shares remain uncertain.

The uncertainty over the future battery chemistry presents a challenge to the development of new mining projects. As a lithium mine can take up to 10 years to begin production, a clear understanding of technology trends and future demand are essential for making informed investment decisions.

This webinar sought to discuss future supply and demand for EVs, future of EV battery chemistry, whether we are on track to meeting the projected lithium demand – through mining, circular economy or innovation, and what challenges and opportunities such a situation present.

The presentation slides can be found here.

14 July 2022 | Virtual

Deep-Sea Mining Technology

The energy transition is driving increased demand for the use of critical materials for technologies such as batteries, electric motors, wind turbines, solar PV panels and electrolysers. Technology improvements in deep-sea mining technology can relieve supply bottlenecks by opening the door to previously inaccessible resources if done sustainably.

Deep-sea mining is a growing subfield, which involves extracting metals and minerals from the ocean floor at depths of 200 meters or more. The regions of interest for deep-sea mining are widely distributed across the globe. Whilst there are three main types of deep-sea mineral deposits of commercial interest, this webinar focused on polymetallic nodules. Our speakers from the Metals Company, International Seabed Authority and Nauru shared insights into the technologies and processes involved in deep-sea mining, new technological breakthroughs, and what lies ahead for deep-sea mining.

The presentation slides can be found here.

18 May 2022 | Virtual

Rare Earth Elements

Rare earth elements are a group of 17 chemical elements, several of which are critical for the energy transition. Neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium are key to the production of the permanent magnets in EVs and wind turbines, yttrium and scandium for hydrogen electrolysers, while europium, terbium and yttrium in energy-efficient fluorescent lighting. While conventional energy also relies on rare earth elements, the mix of energy-relevant rare earth elements that are needed going forward differs from the past.

Following the release of the recent IRENA technical paper Critical Materials for the Energy Transition: Rare Earth Elements, this webinar shared insights into demand and market growth projections of rare earth elements for EVs and wind turbines. It cast light on the supply side and the outlook for the mining and processing of rare earth elements, current costs and their implications, and approaches to enhance the security of rare earth elements supply including through the role of innovation in reducing dependency on rare earth elements. IRENA’s presentation was followed by commentaries from several of our reviewers – from the European Commission Joint Research Centre, Natural Resources Canada, ENEL Foundation, Rare Earth Industry Association and Global Wind Energy Council.

The presentation slides can be found here.