A global scarcity of rare earth metals over the next five years could be “a ticking timebomb” for renewables and clean-tech, according to consultancy PwC.
Hybrid cars, rechargeable batteries and wind turbines are among the sectors which could be affected by a shortage of these metals, which include cobalt, lithium and platinum, says PwC’s report Minerals and metals scarcity in manufacturing: A ‘ticking timebomb’.
Rare earth metals are a key element for producing gearless wind turbines using permanent magnet generators, said Daniel Guttmann, London-based director for renewables and clean-tech at PwC.
Manufacturers favour gearless turbines increasingly as they are more reliable than geared turbines, which are heavier and have more moving parts.
“This is a real headache for the industry and may negatively impact the cost-curve of offshore wind,” he said.
Guttman added that two ways that automotive manufacturers expect to meet tightening emission regulations are electric vehicles and reducing vehicle weight, and rare earth metals are required to construct batteries of the right cost, weight and size.
“Scarce supply and the associated price implications could make it more difficult for [manufacturers] to keep pushing emissions down cost effectively,” he said.
However, when PwC surveyed 69 executives from seven different industries which would be affected by a scarcity of rare earth metals, almost three quarters expressed a lack of concern or a low concern.
In the renewable energy industry, 67% felt that they are sufficiently prepared as did 64% of the automotive industry. This is compared to about half of the respondents aviation industry and only about a third in the high-tech and chemical industries.
By. Elza Holmstedt Pell