Virtual workshop: Mineral Criticality and the Energy Transition

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Energy Resources held a virtual workshop to discuss global mineral needs as the energy transition ramps up. The workshop built on the IRENA’s 2019 report ‘A New World: The Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation’ and the launch of the Energy Resource Governance Initiative (ERGI) by the US alongside other founding partner countries of Australia, Botswana, Canada and Peru.

As we consider the future energy landscape, we must also consider the present situation. The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated peoples’ lives and disrupted economies. While the first response must focus on saving lives and providing immediate support for livelihoods, there are important implications for long term economic stability and supply chain security. As we restart our economies, we must remain cognizant of the significant critical minerals and supply chain demands of the energy transition and start thinking through how to ensure long term resilience.

With that in mind, the virtual 2.5-hour workshop aimed to raise awareness of the dependence of the global renewable energy transition on supplies of specific critical minerals for renewable energy technologies and to call on countries and the international community to develop strategies to ensure reliable and environmentally and socially responsible access to these minerals.

The workshop was opened with three keynote speeches from Frank Fannon, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources, Francesco La Camera, the Director General of the International Renewable Energy Agency and Dr. Morgan Bazilian, Director of the Payne Institute and a Professor of Public Policy at the Colorado School of Mines. High level speakers framed the discussion in a broader context of the clean energy transition and the increased deployment of renewables around the world. Speakers shared the global vision for harmonized socially and environmentally responsible supply chain of minerals and metals and called on increased cooperation among countries beyond those with mining industries. 

Panel I: Governance - Laying the Institutional Framework to Attract Competitive and Transparent Investment

Discussions explored the importance of adopting good governance principles including socially and environmentally sound approaches to encourage private responsible and transparent investment and create value and economic opportunities.

Panel II: Stewardship – Supporting the Full Value Chain from Minerals to Energy Technologies

Discussions explored alternative strategies for reducing supply risks including recycling and reuse/repurposing of critical minerals in the context of circular economy, and reduction in demand for specific critical minerals through alternatives technological designs that reduce the need for or substitute for those minerals.


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