Clean energy technologies generally require more minerals than their fossil fuel-based counterparts. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) in this May 2020 report, an electric car uses five times as much minerals as a conventional car and an onshore wind plant requires eight times as much minerals as a gas-fired plant of the same capacity.
Since 2015, electric transport and grid storage have quickly become the largest consumers of lithium, together accounting for 35% of total demand today. Likewise, the share of these applications in cobalt demand has risen from 5% to almost 25% over the same period.
Such rapid growth has put strains on supply, as witnessed by the five-fold increase in cobalt prices between 2016 and early 2018. Although supply has responded, the volatility of prices in recent years has been a wake-up call for companies and governments in terms of the importance of reliable mineral supplies for clean energy transitions.