Department of Energy releases critical materials strategy for 2011

January 4, 2012

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released the 2011 Critical Materials Strategy, as the report examines the role that rare earth metals and other materials play in clean energy technologies, according to a release from the agency.

The report outlines the effect that these materials play in wind turbines, electric vehicles, solar cells and energy efficient lighting. Supply disruptions of some of these rare earth resources may affect clean energy technology as a whole in the near future.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu noted that transition to a clean energy economy is vital, as it will help to cut pollution, enhance the security of citizens and create jobs.

"This report provides information to help with the transition to a clean energy future, identifying strategies for responding to potential shortages of critical materials in the years ahead," said Chu. "It will help us seize opportunities, using American innovation to find substitutes, promote recycling and help secure supplies of rare earth elements and other materials used in energy technologies."

The DOE developed its first critical materials research and development plan in 2011, along with providing funding for new research projects, convening international workshops to bring experts together and participated in new coordination among federal agencies working in the sector, according to the release.

The fiscal year 2012 spending bill also features $20 million to fund an energy innovation HUB focused on critical materials associated with the department's strategy. This includes diversifying supply, developing substitutes and improving recycyling, reuse and more efficient use.

The DOE has already established several other energy innovation HUBs, each devoted to a specific sector within the energy efficiency industry. These research centers will foster unique, cross-disciplinary collaborations by bringing together leading scientists to focus on specific problems and the development of solutions to these issues.

The DOE's Energy Efficient Building Systems Design HUB is headquartered at the historic Philadelphia Navy Yard. The Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy Efficient Buildings (GPIC) relies on the bright minds of the Greater Philadelphia region for innovative and effective solutions to lowering energy consumption, creating jobs and redesigning buildings.

The Philadelphia Navy Yard is hosting an event on January 18, to promote "building green" in Philadelphia. Examining factors that influence the green building sector will be a focus of "To Green or Not to Green," and fits into the GPIC goal of establishing the region as a leader in the industry for innovation and development.