Strategic Energy Technologies Information System

Materials for Energy

SETIS Magazine, 
February 2015

What is the role of EuroGeoSurveys (EGS) and how does its work contribute to the security of Europe’s supply of critical materials?

The role of EGS is to provide public Earth science knowledge to support the EU’s competitiveness, social well-being, environmental management, and international commitments. Through its Mineral Resources Expert Group, EGS has the capacity and capability to deliver the best available mineral expertise and information based on the knowledge base of its members’ geological surveys, for policy, industry, communication and education purposes at a European level. EGS aims to become the leading partner within a European mineral information network, or similar cooperative undertaking, which will provide innovative tools and expertise to support sustainable minerals supply for Europe. Mineral information provided by EGS is based on globally comparable standards of excellence for research and development, and there are processes for these standards to be maintained. Of course, to make this happen many of EGS mineral activities and tasks are carried out collaboratively with other organizations that have mineral information and expertise, and with consumers of that information and other potential stakeholders.

Within this context, the EGS and Geological Surveys of Europe are currently carrying out the EU-funded Minerals4EU project, which should create the main European information network structure on minerals (including critical ones) to provide tools and expertise to enhance resource efficiency and the security of minerals supply, and support sustainable minerals development for Europe.

Other articles

Critical metals are central to a number of technologies that underpin many low-carbon energy systems. In light of the current scarcity of some of these raw materials, the European Commission has classified a list of 20 resources as being of critical importance (EC 2014).

Europe’s energy system is changing profoundly. The share of renewable and decentralised energy in the energy mix is foreseen to increase. At the same time, overall energy efficiency should improve well beyond the 2020 objectives. This poses exciting challenges for a massive roll out of low-carbon energy technologies and the large scale installation of energy efficient solutions.

Securing sustainable access to raw materials has increasingly become a key strategy for the European Commission in recent years. In particular, critical metals like rare earths (neodymium, dysprosium, europium, terbium, etc.) and other metals such as gallium, indium, germanium have become the focus of politics, economics and science in Europe.

China’s monopoly over rare earth ores for the permanent magnets used in some wind turbines has prompted the search for cutting-edge alternatives. Wind power could meet around 15 % of EU electricity consumption by 2020, according to a 2014 report by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), achieving a total installed capacity of 192.4 GW.

What are some of the advantages (and disadvantages) of thin film Photovoltaic (PV) technologies over the more conventional crystalline silicon panels that make up most of the market? Just to put things into perspective, conventional crystalline silicon (c-Si)-based PV now makes up approximately 90% of the market. On average, from 1980-2013 the market share of thin film PV has always been only around 10%.

Light-emitting diodes, commonly called LEDs, are a technology that uses semiconductors and electroluminescence to create light. LED lighting can be more efficient, durable, versatile and longer lasting than traditional incandescent light bulbs or compact fluorescent lamps (CFL).

The EU relies on imports for many of the raw materials that are vital to the strength of European industry, which is a key enabler of growth and competitiveness in the EU. The global increase in raw material demand, the price volatility for some of these materials and the market distortions imposed by some producer countries have all raised concerns within the EU about securing reliable access to raw material resources.

Other publications