Rare to find a rare-earth metals report that doesn’t scare

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A UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) and the Energy Research Partnership (ERP) report that looks at the materials availability for a low-carbon future analysed much of published data on rare-earth metals such as indium and tellurium but didn’t panic over material supply issues, something quite rare in itself. 

The report, free to download, acknowledges the difficulties in actually plotting demand to supply. High prices can often lead to new sources being tapped and vice versa. 

Scaremongering over the supply of critical rare metals kicks in now and again, while suppliers and end-users consistently downplay any fears. 

According to the UKERC report, little evidence exists to suggest shortages of key metals used in CdTe and CIGS thin-film modules, though repeatedly the report noted the challenges of measuring the supply chain. 

The only niggling problem with the report was the lack of understanding over the business/competitive environment for thin-film technologies. It suggested that a-Si thin-film did not rely on rare earth metals and was therefore less at risk. However, only a few a-Si producers are still in production and just as few using CdTe. 

The report by the UK Energy Research Centre “Materials availability for low-carbon technologies: An assessment of the evidence” summarises the research discussed in this press release and can be downloaded from the UKERC website

According to the UKERC report, little evidence exists to support shortages of key metals used in CdTe and CIGS thin-film modules. Image: First Solar
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