A resource perspective on the energy future

Assessment of the potential of the circular economy to reduce demand for key technologies of future energy supply

In the context of the energy transition, Germany's energy system is undergoing a far-reaching transformation, which comes along with a fundamental restructuring of the infrastructure and thus a need for new resources. For the implementation of renewable energy concepts, raw materials such as cobalt, lithium, rare earths and platinum metals are needed, which are cost-, energy- and/or land-intensive in their production. In addition, their availability is limited, for example due to geological or geopolitical conditions. From a supply perspective, also oligopolistic and monopolistic structures can lead to critical situations due to high prices. Thus, facing an increasing demand for resource-critical energy technologies, also on a global scale, the end-of-life phase is becoming increasingly important.

However, this development does not only represent a risk, but can also be accompanied by new value creation opportunities. Especially for the players in the energy sector (electricity, heat and transport), which is undergoing major changes as a result of the liberalisation of the energy markets and the energy transition, potential new business fields may arise. Thus, in addition to the potential to conserve resources, the transition to a circular economy also goes along with innovative, circular business models.

In this project, the potential of the circular economy for key technologies of future energy supply is to be determined. For selected technologies (e.g. electric vehicle batteries), the savings of critical materials and emissions by means of circular approaches (cf. figure) are quantified. Based on the identification of existing obstacles to implementation, the circular approaches are also assessed with regard to possible cost savings.



Overview of approaches of the circular economy in different life cycle phases

Figure: Overview of approaches of the circular economy in different life cycle phases (own representation based on Accenture)

Further information:

The project is supported by "Stiftung Energieforschung Baden-Württemberg" and "Hans und Klementia Langmatz Stiftung".


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