IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

The Energy Transition and Energy Equity: A Compatible Combination?


  • Matheus L. C. M. Henckens

    (Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, Princetonlaan 8A, 3584 CB Utrecht, The Netherlands)


Much attention is being paid to the short-term supply security of raw materials for the energy transition. However, little attention is being paid to the impact of the energy transition on the long-term availability of a number of specific mineral resources that are needed for the realization of a fossil-free energy infrastructure. The aim of this paper is to examine whether the quantity of raw materials required for the energy transition could encounter limits of geological availability of mineral resources, especially in the case that energy supply and consumption are equitably distributed over all countries of the world in the long term . This study is an ex ante evaluation. The result of the evaluation is that four metals are relatively problematic: cobalt, copper, lithium, and nickel. The in-use stocks of these four metals in energy transition-related technologies may take up between 20% and 30% of the ultimately available resources of these metals in the continental Earth’s crust. Even with an 80% end-of-life recycling rate, the increase in the annual use of primary resources is estimated to be 9% for copper, 29% for nickel, 52% for cobalt, and 86% for lithium, compared to the estimated annual use of these metals without an energy transition. The conclusion of the study is that the question of whether energy equity and the energy transition are a compatible combination cannot be answered unambiguously. After all, it will depend on the extent and the speed with which cobalt, copper, lithium, and nickel can be substituted with other, geologically less scarce metals, and on the achieved end-of-life recycling rates of these metals, not only from energy transition-related products, but also from all other products in which these metals are applied. The novelty of the study is that the availability of raw materials for the energy transition is analyzed from a perspective of global equity at the expected level of the European Union in 2050.

Suggested Citation

  • Matheus L. C. M. Henckens, 2022. "The Energy Transition and Energy Equity: A Compatible Combination?," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 14(8), pages 1-22, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:14:y:2022:i:8:p:4781-:d:795253

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Reilly, John & Paltsev, Sergey, 2007. "Biomass Energy and Competition for Land," Conference papers 331570, Purdue University, Center for Global Trade Analysis, Global Trade Analysis Project.
    2. Valero, Alicia & Valero, Antonio & Calvo, Guiomar & Ortego, Abel, 2018. "Material bottlenecks in the future development of green technologies," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 178-200.
    3. Moss, R.L. & Tzimas, E. & Kara, H. & Willis, P. & Kooroshy, J., 2013. "The potential risks from metals bottlenecks to the deployment of Strategic Energy Technologies," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 556-564.
    4. Reilly, John & Paltsev, Sergey, 2008. "Biomass Energy and Competition for Land," GTAP Working Papers 2607, Center for Global Trade Analysis, Department of Agricultural Economics, Purdue University.
    5. Kim, Junbeum & Guillaume, Bertrand & Chung, Jinwook & Hwang, Yongwoo, 2015. "Critical and precious materials consumption and requirement in wind energy system in the EU 27," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 139(C), pages 327-334.
    6. Tilton, John E. & Crowson, Phillip C.F. & DeYoung, John H. & Eggert, Roderick G. & Ericsson, Magnus & Guzmán, Juan Ignacio & Humphreys, David & Lagos, Gustavo & Maxwell, Philip & Radetzki, Marian & Si, 2018. "Public policy and future mineral supplies," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 55-60.
    7. Sverdrup, Harald Ulrik, 2016. "Modelling global extraction, supply, price and depletion of the extractable geological resources with the LITHIUM model," Resources, Conservation & Recycling, Elsevier, vol. 114(C), pages 112-129.
    8. Viebahn, Peter & Soukup, Ole & Samadi, Sascha & Teubler, Jens & Wiesen, Klaus & Ritthoff, Michael, 2015. "Assessing the need for critical minerals to shift the German energy system towards a high proportion of renewables," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 655-671.
    9. Saleem H. Ali & Damien Giurco & Nicholas Arndt & Edmund Nickless & Graham Brown & Alecos Demetriades & Ray Durrheim & Maria Amélia Enriquez & Judith Kinnaird & Anna Littleboy & Lawrence D. Meinert & R, 2017. "Correction: Corrigendum: Mineral supply for sustainable development requires resource governance," Nature, Nature, vol. 547(7662), pages 246-246, July.
    10. World Bank Group, 2017. "The Growing Role of Minerals and Metals for a Low Carbon Future," World Bank Publications - Reports 28312, The World Bank Group.
    11. World Commission on Environment and Development,, 1987. "Our Common Future," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780192820808.
    12. Saleem H. Ali & Damien Giurco & Nicholas Arndt & Edmund Nickless & Graham Brown & Alecos Demetriades & Ray Durrheim & Maria Amélia Enriquez & Judith Kinnaird & Anna Littleboy & Lawrence D. Meinert & R, 2017. "Mineral supply for sustainable development requires resource governance," Nature, Nature, vol. 543(7645), pages 367-372, March.
    13. Valero, Alicia & Valero, Antonio & Calvo, Guiomar & Ortego, Abel & Ascaso, Sonia & Palacios, Jose-Luis, 2018. "Global material requirements for the energy transition. An exergy flow analysis of decarbonisation pathways," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 159(C), pages 1175-1184.
    14. Kristin Vala Ragnarsdottir, 2012. "Assessing Long Term Sustainability of Global Supply of Natural Resources and Materials," Chapters, in: Chaouki Ghenai (ed.), Sustainable Development - Energy, Engineering and Technologies - Manufacturing and Environment, IntechOpen.
    15. Grandell, Leena & Lehtilä, Antti & Kivinen, Mari & Koljonen, Tiina & Kihlman, Susanna & Lauri, Laura S., 2016. "Role of critical metals in the future markets of clean energy technologies," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 53-62.
    16. Silviu Nate & Yuriy Bilan & Mariia Kurylo & Olena Lyashenko & Piotr Napieralski & Ganna Kharlamova, 2021. "Mineral Policy within the Framework of Limited Critical Resources and a Green Energy Transition," Energies, MDPI, vol. 14(9), pages 1-32, May.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Liang, Yanan & Kleijn, René & Tukker, Arnold & van der Voet, Ester, 2022. "Material requirements for low-carbon energy technologies: A quantitative review," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 161(C).
    2. Kim Maya Yavor & Vanessa Bach & Matthias Finkbeiner, 2021. "Resource Assessment of Renewable Energy Systems—A Review," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 13(11), pages 1-19, May.
    3. Le Boulzec, Hugo & Delannoy, Louis & Andrieu, Baptiste & Verzier, François & Vidal, Olivier & Mathy, Sandrine, 2022. "Dynamic modeling of global fossil fuel infrastructure and materials needs: Overcoming a lack of available data," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 326(C).
    4. Elshkaki, Ayman, 2020. "Long-term analysis of critical materials in future vehicles electrification in China and their national and global implications," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 202(C).
    5. Elshkaki, Ayman & Shen, Lei, 2019. "Energy-material nexus: The impacts of national and international energy scenarios on critical metals use in China up to 2050 and their global implications," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 180(C), pages 903-917.
    6. Ren, Kaipeng & Tang, Xu & Höök, Mikael, 2021. "Evaluating metal constraints for photovoltaics: Perspectives from China’s PV development," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 282(PA).
    7. Elshkaki, Ayman, 2019. "Material-energy-water-carbon nexus in China’s electricity generation system up to 2050," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 189(C).
    8. Beibei Che & Chaofeng Shao & Zhirui Lu & Binghong Qian & Sihan Chen, 2022. "Mineral Requirements for China’s Energy Transition to 2060—Focus on Electricity and Transportation," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 15(1), pages 1-23, December.
    9. Junne, Tobias & Wulff, Niklas & Breyer, Christian & Naegler, Tobias, 2020. "Critical materials in global low-carbon energy scenarios: The case for neodymium, dysprosium, lithium, and cobalt," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 211(C).
    10. Song, Huiling & Wang, Chang & Lei, Xiaojie & Zhang, Hongwei, 2022. "Dynamic dependence between main-byproduct metals and the role of clean energy market," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 108(C).
    11. Song, Huiling & Wang, Chang & Sun, Kun & Geng, Hongjun & Zuo, Lyushui, 2023. "Material efficiency strategies across the industrial chain to secure indium availability for global carbon neutrality," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 85(PB).
    12. Islam, Md. Monirul & Sohag, Kazi & Hammoudeh, Shawkat & Mariev, Oleg & Samargandi, Nahla, 2022. "Minerals import demands and clean energy transitions: A disaggregated analysis," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 113(C).
    13. Islam, Md. Monirul & Sohag, Kazi & Mariev, Oleg, 2023. "Geopolitical risks and mineral-driven renewable energy generation in China: A decomposed analysis," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 80(C).
    14. Osorio-Aravena, Juan Carlos & Aghahosseini, Arman & Bogdanov, Dmitrii & Caldera, Upeksha & Ghorbani, Narges & Mensah, Theophilus Nii Odai & Khalili, Siavash & Muñoz-Cerón, Emilio & Breyer, Christian, 2021. "The impact of renewable energy and sector coupling on the pathway towards a sustainable energy system in Chile," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 151(C).
    15. Song, Yi & Ruan, Shengzhe & Cheng, Jinhua & Zhang, Yijun, 2023. "Technological change in critical metallic mineral sub-sectors and its impacts on mineral supply: Evidence from China," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 85(PA).
    16. Liang, Yanan & Kleijn, René & van der Voet, Ester, 2023. "Increase in demand for critical materials under IEA Net-Zero emission by 2050 scenario," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 346(C).
    17. 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.
    18. Hache, Emmanuel & Simoën, Marine & Seck, Gondia Sokhna & Bonnet, Clément & Jabberi, Aymen & Carcanague, Samuel, 2020. "The impact of future power generation on cement demand: An international and regional assessment based on climate scenarios," International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 163(C), pages 114-133.
    19. Miller, Hugh & Dikau, Simon & Svartzman, Romain & Dees, Stéphane, 2023. "The stumbling block in ‘the race of our lives’: transition-critical materials, financial risks and the NGFS climate scenarios," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 118095, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    20. He, Rui-fang & Zhong, Mei-rui & Huang, Jian-bai, 2021. "The dynamic effects of renewable-energy and fossil-fuel technological progress on metal consumption in the electric power industry," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 71(C).


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:14:y:2022:i:8:p:4781-:d:795253. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: MDPI Indexing Manager (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.