Global energy and climate leaders meet in Sydney to strengthen clean energy technology supply chains

High-level discussions among Ministers from Australia, Japan, India, Indonesia, Samoa, US and other countries are informed by new IEA reports on supply chains for technologies such as solar panels and batteries

Global energy and climate leaders are meeting this week at the Sydney Energy Forum, which is co-hosted by the Australian Government and the IEA, to discuss how to scale up and strengthen supply chains for the clean energy technologies needed for a secure and affordable transition to net zero emissions.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese of Australia opened the event, with high-level participants including IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol; Australian Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen; US Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm; Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Koichi Hagiuda; Samoan Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Toeolesulusulu Cedric Schuster; Indian Minister of Power, New and Renewable Energy Raj Kumar Singh; and Indonesian Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Arifin Tasrif. Top leaders from industry and finance also took part.

The discussions at the Sydney Energy Forum on 12-13 July reflect the importance of international dialogue and cooperation for achieving energy security and climate goals – and the central role of the IEA in these efforts. Governments around the world are seeking to bring greenhouse gas emissions down to net zero and limit the worst effects of climate change. This is set to redefine global energy security to include the supply of the minerals, materials and manufacturing capacity needed to deliver clean energy technologies.

The pressure on these supply chains from Covid-related lockdowns has been compounded by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with supply disruptions and soaring prices affecting a wide range of key commodities. This turmoil risks undermining the pace of clean energy transitions, such as by hindering the production of EVs or the deployment of renewables, calling for astute action by governments to counter these challenges.

“To durably address the challenges we’re facing from today’s global energy crisis, we need an immediate and massive expansion of clean energy technologies to build a resilient and affordable energy system,” Dr Birol said. “Establishing secure and sustainable supply chains for these technologies is essential, so I’m very pleased that decision-makers from around the world have come together for these discussions led by the Australian Government and the IEA to strengthen international action.”

To inform the conversations at the Sydney Energy Forum, the IEA has published a series of new studies, including a Special Report on Solar PV Global Supply Chains and an analysis of Global Supply Chains of EV Batteries. The issues affecting different technologies are brought together in the cross-cutting Securing Clean Energy Technology Supply Chains report, which assesses current and future supply chain needs for key technologies – including solar PV, EV batteries and low emissions hydrogen – and provides a framework for governments and industry to identify, assess and respond to emerging opportunities and vulnerabilities. That report is a precursor to the 2023 edition of Energy Technology Perspectives, an IEA flagship publication, which will present detailed analysis on what is needed to develop and expand a range of clean energy technology supply chains to achieve net zero emissions.

Reflecting the IEA’s growing role in this space, IEA member governments mandated the Agency in March to work on steps to improve the security of global supplies of critical minerals needed for clean energy transitions, making this a major expanding area of work.

The Securing Clean Energy Technology Supply Chains report contains specific insights for the Indo-Pacific region, which is home to many major raw material producers such as Australia for lithium and Indonesia for nickel. The report identifies five pillars for governments and industry action: Diversify, Accelerate, Innovate, Collaborate and Invest. It recommends improving the efficiency and speed of permitting and approvals for clean energy projects and critical mineral production, while maintaining high environmental and labour standards. It also calls for coordinated measures to bolster supply chain resilience including consideration of stockpiles for critical minerals, as has been done for oil for half a century, and promoting robust recycling industries to reduce demand for raw materials.

The report recommends increasing and prioritising investment in research, development and demonstration to spawn technologies and manufacturing processes that rely on smaller quantities of critical minerals or on a more diversified mix, as well as in training to ensure an appropriately skilled workforce along clean energy technology supply chains.