Abstract

Renewable energy (RE) is critical for curbing global greenhouse gas emissions to achieve 2 to 4 degrees of global warming by 2100. While this is an imperative technical response to the climate crisis, the shift to renewables is also driving a surge in demand for metals and minerals used in RE. Calls are being made for “smarter” and more “responsible” forms of mining, but questions remain about the socio-economic and environmental impacts of extraction, processing, application, and disposal at multiple scales. The literature has been limited to the technical and cost-benefit dimensions of managing RE global supply chains. This article seeks to expand this focus by developing a typology of displacement that may be used to understand the socio-economic and environmental effects of onshore wind, solar photovoltaics (PV), and lithium-ion batteries. It encourages a critical analysis of how the global surge in demand for renewable energy is affecting development pathways and displacement patterns.