The climate crisis leaves us no choice but to make a swift transition from fossil fuels to renewable energies. However, while energy from renewable sources such as solar and wind is nearly infinite, the resources we need to capture it are not. Solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, and power cables all contain metals. Their various properties, including toughness and conductivity, make metals uniquely suitable for renewable energy technologies. But first they must be extracted from ores that are dug up from the ground. Because of its decentralised nature, a renewable energy system requires far larger quantities of metals than a fossil energy system.
The more energy we harvest from the skies above our heads, the deeper we will have to dig for the metals beneath our feet.
Both the energy transition and the digital transition require large quantities of metals, such as lithium, cobalt, and rare earth. As a result, Europe must face up to various types of scarcity. This Agenda for Action sets out how we can achieve the sparing, circular use of metals and the responsible sourcing of the virgin metals that we really need.
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This publication is part of the Metals for a Green and Digital Europe project. The project is led by Wetenschappelijk Bureau GroenLinks and supported by Fundacja Strefa Zieleni, Institut Aktivního Občanství, the Green Economics Institute, Etopia, Visio, and Transición Verde, with Cogito from Sweden providing additional expertise.