The EU should produce more green technologies and key raw materials, the EC proposed

The EU should produce more green technologies and key raw materials, proposed EC

Flag of the European Union – illustration photo.

Brussels – The European Union should produce at least 40 percent of the technologies key to the production of renewable energy on its territory by the end of the decade. It also plans to start mining, processing and recycling more strategic raw materials to reduce its dependence on China and other non-European suppliers. The proposals of the European Commission (EC) published today are counting on this, which are intended to ensure greater self-sufficiency of the EU and strengthen its competitiveness in response to the massive green subsidies of the USA. To enter into force, the proposals must be approved by the Member States and the European Parliament. Some politicians and industry representatives have made it clear that, in their opinion, the commission's plans are not very concrete.

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The proposal for rules intended to support clean industry (Net Zero Industry Act) sets out a list of technologies whose domestic production the EU intends to facilitate, with the aim of reaching 40 percent of the total amount used by 2030. Among them are solar panels, heat pumps, wind turbines or renewable hydrogen. The Union should facilitate approval processes for these projects to make them more attractive to investors. Selected strategic projects are to receive an advantage in the form of shortened permit periods.

According to EC Vice-President Věra Jourová, the new rules do not affect the fact that individual member states can determine their own energy mix, and enable the support of nuclear energy. “We will develop clean, low-carbon technologies, including modern nuclear technologies,” Jourová said of the proposal. France or the Czech Republic, for example, are focusing on nuclear energy production.

The related standard on critical raw materials (Critical Raw Materials Act) envisages expanding the production of lithium, cobalt, titanium and other materials used in green or digital technologies. The Commission proposes that the EU produce a tenth, process 40 percent and recycle 15 percent of its annual consumption of strategic materials. Facilitation of administrative processes should help with this. According to the proposal, the authorization of strategic mining projects should take no longer than two years, and for the processing and recycling of important raw materials, it should take no more than one year.

“We want to be leaders in the production of green technologies of the future. To do this, we need critical raw materials for which demand will grow in the coming years,” EC Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis said today. The commission expects demand for lithium, which is key to making car batteries, to grow twelvefold by the end of the decade. In the same time period, up to six times more metals from rare earths used for wind power plants will be needed than today. According to Dombrovskis, the EU is dependent on only one supplier for the import of a number of them, which is not desirable.

The largest exporter of critical raw materials to Europe is China, which supplies, for example, around 90 percent of rare earths and most of the consumption of some other metals. The Commission proposes that no more than 65 percent of supplies of specific material can come from a single non-European country.

The proposals will be negotiated by member states and MEPs in the coming months. In the first reactions, those who mostly welcomed the commission's plan on a general level, but some spoke about the lack of concrete ways to support European production. “If we are going to extract raw materials in Europe, it must be under strict social and ecological conditions,” Mohammed Chahim, the vice-chairman of the second-largest European Parliament faction of the Socialists, pointed out concerns about speeding up mining permits.

Representatives of industrial companies mostly talk about steps in a positive direction, but some indicate that they do not fully meet their expectations. For example, WIndEurope said the proposals contained little detail on possible financial support for investment in the production of renewable technologies.