Monday , 25 September 2023

US DOE Includes Copper in its Recent Critical Minerals Assessment Report

In a pivotal move towards bolstering the supply chain security for clean energy technologies, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has released its much-anticipated 2023 Critical Materials Assessment. This assessment not only highlights materials essential to the global clean energy transition but also influences critical decisions that will shape the trajectory of renewable energy adoption.

This report builds on earlier Critical Materials Strategy (CMS) reports released by the DOE in 2010, 2011, and 2019. It takes into account national and global priorities, technological advancements, and trends in technology adoption.

The report’s significance lies in its potential to safeguard the production of pivotal technologies such as electric vehicles, solar panels, and wind turbines.

The full DOE “Critical Materials Assessment” report can be found here:

DOE Critical Materials List

The Final 2023 DOE Critical Materials List includes the following minerals:

  • U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), list of critical minerals published in 2022 (50 minerals):
    • Aluminum, antimony, arsenic, barite, beryllium, bismuth, cerium, cesium, chromium, cobalt, dysprosium, erbium, europium, fluorspar, gadolinium, gallium, germanium, graphite, hafnium, holmium, indium, iridium, lanthanum, lithium, lutetium, magnesium, manganese, neodymium, nickel, niobium, palladium, platinum, praseodymium, rhodium, rubidium, ruthenium, samarium, scandium, tantalum, tellurium, terbium, thulium, tin, titanium, tungsten, vanadium, ytterbium, yttrium, zinc, and zirconium.
  • Critical materials for energy:
    • Aluminum, cobalt, copper*, dysprosium, electrical steel*, fluorine, gallium, iridium, lithium, magnesium, natural graphite, neodymium, nickel, platinum, praseodymium, terbium, silicon*, and silicon carbide*. (*Indicates materials not designated as critical minerals by the USGS.)

Assessment and Material Selection

Underpinning the DOE’s commitment to a greener future, the 2023 Critical Materials Assessment evaluates the criticality of materials crucial to advancing clean energy technologies.

The assessment takes into account the risk of supply chain disruptions and identifies materials that are central to the production of energy-efficient technologies.

Among the materials deemed critical are aluminum, cobalt, copper, dysprosium, and various types of steel and metals like gallium, iridium, lithium, and magnesium.

This comprehensive approach reflects the interconnectedness of the global energy landscape and sets the stage for mitigating supply chain risks.

Impact on Clean Energy Transition

The inclusion of copper in the DOE’s Critical Materials List signals a watershed moment in the transition to a clean energy economy.

Acting Assistant Secretary for DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Alejandro Moreno, emphasizes the necessity of anticipating and securing the critical material supply chains that power clean energy technologies.

These technologies encompass a spectrum of innovations, from solar panels and wind turbines to power electronics and electric vehicles. By addressing material criticality today, the DOE is laying the foundation for a sustainable energy future that can endure for decades.

FIGURE 1: 5-Year Copper Chart
5-Year Copper Chart
Source: S&P Capital IQ

Strategic Planning and Global Perspective

Recognizing that material markets are inherently global, the Critical Materials Assessment employs a worldwide perspective to ensure U.S. domestic interests are placed within a broader context.

The report outlines an integrated strategy for each identified critical material to address risks specific to their supply chains. This forward-thinking approach underscores the DOE’s commitment to minimizing vulnerabilities in the clean energy transition.

Furthermore, the Assessment builds upon previous Critical Materials Strategy reports while complementing existing criticality assessments conducted by other U.S. governmental bodies, such as the USGS.

Final Thoughts

The release of the 2023 Critical Materials Assessment represents a landmark achievement in the pursuit of clean energy adoption. By identifying materials crucial to energy transition technologies and assessing their potential supply chain vulnerabilities, the DOE is playing a pivotal role in ensuring a sustainable and resilient clean energy future.

The recognition of copper’s significance, alongside other critical materials, underscores the government’s proactive approach to anticipate and mitigate potential disruptions. This comprehensive assessment, backed by global insights and strategic planning, sets the stage for a cleaner, greener, and more secure energy landscape, ultimately benefitting both current and future generations.

About the Writer:

Chris Thompson, CFA, MBA, P.Eng, is the President and Director of Equity Research at eResearch. He is a Professional Engineer and CFA Charterholder with an MBA in Investment Management and over 14 years of experience in the Capital Markets covering industries including mining, software development, FinTech, telecommunications, and information technology.

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