Essay by Eric Worrall
It seems a pity nobody ran some numbers BEFORE making promises and spending billions on an energy transition which we don’t have the resources to make happen.
Copper shortage keep green energy, tech ventures grounded
Copper the balloon popper for 2050 net-zero goals according to S&P
Fri 15 Jul 2022 // 17:00 UTC
Copper is so central to transitioning from fossil fuels to sustainable energy, says a report from S&P Global, that worldwide demand is likely to double by 2035 from 25 million metric tons to 50; no matter the scenario, S&P said it’s unlikely the world will be able to meet it.
“The record-high level of demand would be sustained and continue to grow to 53 million metric tons in 2050 – more than all the copper consumed in the world between 1900 and 2021,” S&P Global said.
From oil to minerals
In a 2021 report, the International Energy Agency (IEA) described a new energy paradigm slowly replacing fossil fuels – minerals, the most important being copper.
Internal combustion vehicles of all sizes have around 24 kilograms of copper in their powertrains, the report’s data shows. Swapping internal combustion for fuel cells leads to a slight increase in copper, but swapping fuel cells for batteries is where things start to really scale up. A light duty battery-powered EV (BEV) powertrain requires 60kg of copper. A medium-duty BEV requires 139kg, while a heavy-duty BEV needs a whopping 425kg of copper.
The obvious solution to this inevitable problem would be to open more copper mines. That would definitely help offset coming shortages, but the catch is that those offsets would come too late.
“It currently takes 16 years, on average, to develop a new mine, meaning that a new mine seeking permission today would not become productive in time to accommodate the demand spike,” S&P said, quoting an IEA study.
Substitution of other metals – like aluminum – and recycling of copper reportedly won’t be enough to meet projected demand either, S&P’s data shows.
…Read more: https://www.theregister.com/2022/07/15/netzero_emissions_copper/
The S&P report is available here. The first key finding in the executive summary pretty much says it all; “Copper—the “metal of electrification”—is essential to all energy transition plans. But the potential supply-demand gap is expected to be very large as the transition proceeds. Substitution and recycling will not be enough to meet the demands of electric vehicles (EVs), power infrastructure, and renewable generation. Unless massive new supply comes online in a timely way, the goal of Net-Zero Emissions by 2050 will be short-circuited and remain out of reach.“
Obviously it is possible some unexpected advance will dramatically increase copper availability, in the same sense it is possible I’ll win the lottery. But I’m not holding my breath waiting for either event.