What is the global environmental cost of green energy technologies?

Securing the sustainable proliferation of green energy technologies is an essential issue as the transition from fossil fuels to renewable ones has been accelerating in the last decade. The environmental concerns related to the supply chain of critical materials used by those technologies, especially rare earth elements, deserve special attention on a global scale. Our research attempts to enhance our understanding of the environmental impact of the introduction of green energy technologies. Our analysis provides an insight into the key question: to what extent the use of green energy is a sustainable solution? We discovered that the rapid development of existing green energy technologies causes a rebound effect manifested by the unsustainable consumption of rare earth elements. It leads, in the longer perspective, to the export of environmental problems from one location to another and moves them forward into the future while no attempts are made to mitigate the core issues.

Post Doctoral Researcher
Saeed Rahimpour


Our study highlights a need to design and put in place various measures intended to increase rare earth elements reuse, recycling (the current rate is less than 1%), limit dematerialization, increase substitution and develop new elimination technologies (e.g., an engine without permanent magnets). Such actions would support the environmentally sustainable development of green energy technologies.
We provide the first global analysis to present a comprehensive impact of the green energy technologies on trends observed in using electric vehicles and installed wind power, price, natural resource depletion, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Moreover, we have shown the environmental impacts of different stages of the supply chain of green energy (mining to production). This research provides new and valuable insights which should benefit policy and decision-making aimed at reaching sustainable utilization of green energy technologies.
Viipuri Management Research Lab of LUT University provided access to AnyLogic (University 8.5.0) software for simulation modeling.


Green energy, Energy supply, Critical materials, Decarbonization measures, Environmental sustainability

Rahimpour Golroudbary,S.,Makarava,I., Kraslawski, A. & Repo, E.(2022). Global environmental cost of using rare earth elements in green energytechnologies. Science of The Total Environment.