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Identifying critical materials for photovoltaics in the US: A multi-metric approach

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  • Goe, Michele
  • Gaustad, Gabrielle

Abstract

There are increasing concerns that physical material constraints threaten energy security and the growth of emerging technologies. Traditional approaches to quantify material criticality utilize single-score metrics which are narrowly focused on physical scarcity and often lead to command-and-control policies. However, a broader definition of criticality that goes beyond physical scarcity to include sustainability metrics e.g. embodied energy, political instability, economic value can provide policymakers with a more comprehensive perspective of the complex and highly interconnected relationships between indicators. We use the case of solar photovoltaic materials to demonstrate the challenges and opportunities in critical materials policy and indicator choices. For silicon-based and thin-film photovoltaics in particular, Ge, Pt, As, In, Sn and Ag were found to be the most critical relative to the 17 materials studied. Multi-metric analysis for these materials reveals tradeoffs that suggest friction between sustainable economics, political stability of supply, and environmental quality objectives.

Suggested Citation

  • Goe, Michele & Gaustad, Gabrielle, 2014. "Identifying critical materials for photovoltaics in the US: A multi-metric approach," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 123(C), pages 387-396.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:appene:v:123:y:2014:i:c:p:387-396
    DOI: 10.1016/j.apenergy.2014.01.025
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    2. Elshkaki, Ayman & Graedel, T.E., 2015. "Solar cell metals and their hosts: A tale of oversupply and undersupply," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 158(C), pages 167-177.
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    4. Tokimatsu, Koji & Wachtmeister, Henrik & McLellan, Benjamin & Davidsson, Simon & Murakami, Shinsuke & Höök, Mikael & Yasuoka, Rieko & Nishio, Masahiro, 2017. "Energy modeling approach to the global energy-mineral nexus: A first look at metal requirements and the 2°C target," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 207(C), pages 494-509.
    5. Jinghan Chen & Wen Zhou & Hongtao Yang, 2019. "Is Embodied Energy a Better Starting Point for Solving Energy Security Issues?—Based on an Overview of Embodied Energy-Related Research," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(16), pages 1-22, August.
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    8. A. Mateus & C. Lopes & L. Martins & J. Carvalho, 2017. "Towards a multi-dimensional methodology supporting a safeguarding decision on the future access to mineral resources," Mineral Economics, Springer;Raw Materials Group (RMG);Luleå University of Technology, vol. 30(3), pages 229-255, October.
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    12. Chen, Ze & Zhang, Xiao-dan & Fang, Jia & Liang, Jun-hui & Liang, Xue-jiao & Sun, Jian & Zhang, De-kun & Wang, Ning & Zhao, Hui-xu & Chen, Xin-liang & Huang, Qian & Wei, Chang-chun & Zhao, Ying, 2014. "Enhancement in electrical performance of thin-film silicon solar cells based on a micro- and nano-textured zinc oxide electrodes," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 135(C), pages 158-164.
    13. Helbig, Christoph & Bradshaw, Alex M. & Kolotzek, Christoph & Thorenz, Andrea & Tuma, Axel, 2016. "Supply risks associated with CdTe and CIGS thin-film photovoltaics," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 178(C), pages 422-433.
    14. Shule Li & Jingjing Yan & Qiuming Pei & Jinghua Sha & Siyu Mou & Yong Xiao, 2019. "Risk Identification and Evaluation of the Long-term Supply of Manganese Mines in China Based on the VW-BGR Method," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(9), pages 1-23, May.
    15. Juan Sebastián Lara Rodríguez & André Tosi Furtado & Aleix Altimiras-Martin, 2018. "Materias primas críticas y complejidad económica en América Latina," Revista Apuntes del Cenes, Universidad Pedagógica y Tecnológica de Colombia, vol. 37(65), pages 15-51, February.

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