U.S. DOE Picks Five Critical REEs

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"Risk of supply disruption plagues several energy technologies."

The U.S. DOE identifies five rare earth elements (REEs) and indium as the most critical metals for clean energy technologies and supply risk. Neodymium, dysprosium, terbium, europium and yttrium were named as part of the "Critical Materials Strategy" examining the role of REEs and other materials in the clean-energy economy. "Criticality" was defined as a measure combining importance to the clean economy and risk of supply disruption. The strategy document was based on the department's research over the past year. Technologies examined in the report include wind turbines, electric vehicles, solar cells and energy-efficient lighting.

According to an executive summary, the report found that several energy technologies—among them wind turbines, electric vehicles, photovoltaic cells and fluorescent lighting—use materials that are at risk of supply disruptions in the medium and long term. It also found that cleantech energies currently account for about 20% of global critical-materials consumption but that as clean energy is deployed more widely in coming decades this share will likely grow.

The report concluded that sound policies and strategic investments could reduce the risk of supply disruptions. They said data on many of the issues identified in the report was sparse, however. Plans for further work on the subject and updated critical material strategy by the end of next year are also planned, officials said.

The strategy calls for diversified global supply chains, taking steps to facilitate extraction, processing and manufacturing in the United States, development of substitutes and research into recycling.

"This strategy is an important step in planning for growing global demand for clean energy products that help strengthen the U.S. economy and create jobs," Energy Secretary Steven Chu said, adding, "ensuring reliable access to critical materials will help the United States in the new clean-energy economy."

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