CE03 - Interactions Humains-Environnement

Materials scarcity and recycling for the energy transition – SCARCYCLET

Submission summary

SCARCYCLET gathers 21 scientists in economics, geology and engineering of materials, to study the role of mineral resources in the energy transition (ET) and of their recycling
This multidisciplinary project shall contribute to the advancement in knowledge on specific dimensions of the dynamic relation between the material-energy and the economic-society elements of the socioecological system, with relevance for the debate on policy design. It spurs new interdisciplinary collaborations, gains momentum of recent innovative frontier work, and improves the training of height young researchers.
The project builds on two major synergies. Economists will help the geologists and the engineers to overcome their current difficulty in integrating economic incentives into their models, to improve their ability in replicating historical patterns and running credible scenarios. Engineers and geologists will contribute to the economic analysis of the ET under materials’ scarcity and recycling, by helping economists to meaningfully represent the technology and physical constraints of the recycling activity, of the use of primary and recycled metals, and of the production of primary minerals.
We aim at developing original analytical tools for (1) Quantifying material flows and identifying potential bottlenecks under recycling in the ET, and at (2) Designing public policies for recycling metals for the ET.
Our activities are structured around four tasks:
T1: Improving prospective simulations of materials demand and supply: where we develop modules for the primary supply of metals for the prospective model, and study the potential recovery of metals from fossil-related infrastructure;
T2: Understanding the local and geopolitical consequences of metals recycling: where we extend the model to a multiregional scale, and analyze how the emergence of recycling for traded metals can trigger strategic interaction;
T3: Defining the socially desirable recycling activity for metals: where we estimate efficient recycling for social objectives on intergenerational equity, for specific cases;
T4: Representing equilibrium dynamics and policy interventions under metal recycling: where we model the choices of actors involved in the recycling activity, then analyze the interaction between public policies regarding the energy transition.
Recognizing a lack of empirical data, we will collect data from field work on the recycling industry at different stages of the process, for specific equipment and metals.
In the light of the topical European policy agenda for critical raw materials and the circular economy, other results are valuable: an improved simulation tool on materials flows and stocks for alternative ET scenarios (available online open access); a clearer understanding of the role of metals’ recycling in trade-related geopolitical frictions; a better coordination between policies such as life-of-product regulation and rules on recycled content.
Four partner institutions are involved: CEE-M (environmental economics), IS-Terre (earth studies), IREGE (energy economics), BRGM (mineral resources). Every partner contributes to each task. Interdisciplinary collaborative activities are based on the common methodology of mathematical modelling for dynamic analysis and their empirically-grounded applications.
To achieve its goals, the team is organized around some practical collaborations, leading to articles co-authored by scientists of different disciplines. Four research positions will be opened, each jointly supervised by members of two distinct partners. The project opens access to section of datasets on primary metals markets and exploration.
Scientific workshops, open to outsiders, are organized every year. Two meetings promote exchange between members and stakeholders’ experts from the industry, NGO’s and administration. Given the policy relevance of the topic, our approach and results will be presented beyond academics.

Project coordination

Francesco Ricci (Centre d'Economie de l'Environnement)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


CEE-M Centre d'Economie de l'Environnement
ISTERRE Institut des Sciences de la Terre

Help of the ANR 570,409 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: September 2021 - 48 Months

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