U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Advanced Manufacturing Office – Industrial Distributed Energy

DOE Releases its Critical Materials Strategy

January 11, 2012

DOE released on December 22, 2011, its Critical Materials Strategy, a report that examines the role that rare earth metals and other key materials play in clean energy technologies such as wind turbines, electric vehicles, solar cells, and energy-efficient lighting. The report found that several clean energy technologies use materials at risk of supply disruptions in the short term, with risks generally decreasing in the medium and long terms. Supply challenges for five rare earth metals (dysprosium, neodymium, terbium, europium, and yttrium) may affect clean energy technology deployment in the years ahead.

In the past year, DOE has developed its first critical-materials research and development plan, provided new funding for priority research, convened international workshops that brought together leading experts, and participated in substantial new coordination among federal agencies working on critical materials. Also, the Fiscal Year 2012 spending bill includes $20 million to fund an energy innovation hub focused on critical materials, which will help advance the three pillars of the DOE strategy: diversifying supply; developing substitutes; and improving recycling, reuse, and more efficient use.

The 2011 Critical Materials Strategy is DOE's second report on this topic and provides an update to last year's analysis. Using a methodology adapted from the National Academy of Sciences, the report includes criticality assessments for 16 elements based on their importance to clean energy and supply risk. See the DOE press release and the report summaryPDF.