EU study says China's grip on rare earths could choke green energy plans

A new European study says supply shortfalls of rare-earth elements over the next two decades put at risk the EU's ambitious plans to expand the production of solar, wind and green transport technologies and implement carbon-capture systems.

According to the EU's Joint Research Centre, solar will require half the current world supply of tellurium and 25% of the supply of indium, while Europe’s wind energy programme which is supposed to power all of the continents 240 million households within 20 years need a steady supply of neodymium and dysprosium. China controls 95% of the globe's rare earth output in 2010 produced more solar panels than the rest of the world combined.

EurActiv quotes Dr. Raymond Moss, lead author of the report: “This adds more evidence to the fact that Europe has to look within itself  … and more toward waste management, to re-use existing metals.” reported last week Scottish ministers are expected to order a public inquiry into plans to build the UK’s only new coal-fired power station with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology after it suffered another serious setback.

The latest delay follows unprecedented public opposition to the $4.8 billion project and will also damage proponents of CCS – where CO2 emissions are sequestered underground – and the so-called ‘clean coal’ lobby. Only two small coal CSS pilot projects exist worldwide: Schwarze Pumpe in Germany and Mountaineer Power Plant in West Virginia. Read more on how the world's largest clean coal project could be going up in smoke. reported in October on the European Commission's Roadmap for a Low-carbon Economy in which all scenarios point to wind farms becoming the biggest source of electricity in the bloc by 2050, outstripping both coal and nuclear power.

Coal use could fall to very low levels it is predicted and gas would be the “bridging” fossil fuel until around 2030 or 2035. Read more on how if renewable sources of power make up a large share of energy production average prices for households could jump by more than 100% by 2050. reported in September on the British Geological Survey latest list of the 52 elements, minerals and metals most at risk of supply disruption because global production is concentrated in a few countries, many with unstable governments.

According to the report antimony, widely used for fireproofing is most at risk while the platinum group metals (auto catalysts) hold the second spot. Read more on how China controls 50% of the world's critical metals and minerals.