10 May 2023, 12:23
Sören Amelang

Germany must lessen dependency on energy transition raw materials – govt advisors

Clean Energy Wire

Germany should make its landmark energy transition more crisis-resilient by increasing independence from raw materials that are needed for climate-friendly technologies such as wind power, solar energy, batteries, electric motors and fuel cells, government advisors said. “In order to make the transition process crisis-proof, substitutes should be found, recycling should be made possible and promoted, new sources of supply should be developed, and stockpiles of critical raw materials should be built up,” said the climate action science platform (Wissenschaftsplattform Klimaschutz – WPKS), an advisory panel. A study by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), which was commissioned by the panel, classified Germany’s supply with platinum group metals and boron as “particularly critical,” because production is concentrated in very few countries and demand expected to multiply. The analysis also said that the supply of rare earths, graphite, gallium, germanium, indium, cobalt, lithium, magnesium, niobium, strontium and titanium is “critical,” while fluorine and silicon supplies carry rather low risks.

The science platform warned that Germany is not only dependent on raw materials, but also on many processed products. “Many preliminary and end products needed for energy technologies are also increasingly produced in a few countries and exported to Germany. For example, we are more than 95 percent dependent on one country for the wafers needed for photovoltaic systems,” said Ortwin Renn, a member of the platform’s steering committee, without mentioning China explicitly. The advisory panel said making the shift to climate neutrality more resilient could take many forms, among them more research and more intensive raw materials diplomacy. “We should draw the right conclusions from the Corona pandemic and Russia’s war,” said Karen Pittel, another steering committee member. “Diversification, circular economy and international cooperation are key elements of a resilient raw material supply,” she added.

Germany’s government touts the energy transition as a means of making the country independent of fossil fuel imports. Yet, supply bottlenecks caused by the pandemic, as well as gas supply cuts as a result of Russia's war in Ukraine, have acutely increased awareness of Germany’s multiple other import dependencies.  A report commissioned by the economy and climate ministry (BMWK) said last year that Germany imports 39 of the 46 most relevant raw materials needed to achieve strategic targets in energy and industrial policy.

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