By coming together, we can pave a path toward a brighter future supported by a strong domestic supply chain that fuels sustainable energy.
It’s no secret that critical minerals play a vital role in developing and producing technologies like electric vehicles, renewable electricity, and battery energy storage. Over the past year, the U.S. supply chain has been front and center in the news – from shortages of paper goods to your favorite bag of chips. While these issues may sound disconnected, today’s National Clean Energy Week (NCEW) panel, Innovation and Reducing Emissions in Carbon-Intensive Sectors, clearly they are all linked together.
NCEW brought together an impressive panel of experts, including leaders in the domestic manufacturing, solar, and sustainable battery industries, to dive deep into the role of critical minerals and how supply chain issues impact our transition to cleaner energy sources.
Moderated by Philip Rossetti, Senior Fellow for Energy & Environment at R Street Institute, the panel discussion centered around the exciting future we have regarding transforming and securing our domestic supply chain of critical minerals. Panelists included:
- Alex Fitzsimmons, Senior Program Director, ClearPath
- Jordan Geist, Senior Director, Metals Division, East Penn Manufacturing Company
- Dan Blondal, CEO, Nano One Materials Corp.
- Samantha Sloan, Vice President, Global Marketing, Policy & Sustainability, First Solar Inc.
- Jeremy Woodrum, Senior Director of Congressional Affairs, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)
America is at an important inflection point regarding critical minerals and the supply chain, with opportunities to build a more resilient domestic future. Several panelists noted our dependence on foreign suppliers for the critical minerals needed to produce and manufacture clean energy alternatives such as solar panels and lithium batteries. The group examined the impact of the war in Ukraine and Chinese supply of critical minerals. Samantha Sloan of First Solar, the only U.S.-based top-10 solar producer, noted, “one thing we can take away from the war is that when we have a dependency on an adversary, we lose control over the supply chain, and we need to protect the security of the energy supply chain.” Dan Blondal of Nano One, an innovative battery company based in Canada, added that sanctions on Russia have deeply impacted the supply of lithium and nickel, putting real constraints on the supply chain. Alex Fitzsimmons of ClearPath, a nonprofit focused on accelerating breakthrough innovations to reduce emissions, tactfully noted, “critical minerals are the lynchpin of our clean energy future, and if we don’t get this right, we don’t have an energy future that is affordable or secure.”
The good news is that we have a strong foundation for a robust supply chain right here in our own backyard. Jordan Geist of East Penn Manufacturing Company, the world’s largest single-site battery manufacturing facility, noted the sustainable energy community could learn a lot from the lead battery industry and urged stakeholders to take advantage of our existing infrastructure. Geist detailed how the lead battery is the greatest recycling story of all time, being 99% recyclable at the end of life and the industry relying on a robust domestic supply chain that’s cyclical.
The future of critical minerals and a robust, secure domestic supply chain is bright. New sustainable mining facilities are opening up across the country while Congress is passing legislation like the Inflation Reduction Act, which incentivizes investment in domestic sourcing and recycling. Jeremy Woodrum of Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), a trade association representing the solar industry, noted it’s an exciting time in the clean energy industry; it’s experiencing an uptick in domestic manufacturing alongside rising demand and, according to Jeremy, the “industry won’t look the same in two to three years as it does today.”