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The (low) copper production hides a tsunami for the energy transition

copper production

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In 2050, copper production is expected to double. But demand already doubles in 2035

( – To operate a 3 MW wind turbine you need 4.7 tons. In a photovoltaic system, you need 5.5 tons per MW. Flux, sodium, lithium-ion batteries also require large quantities. And while a car with an endothermic engine has an average of 20-22 kg, in an electric car you need twice that, while for an electric van more than 80 kg. Let’s talk about copper, a crucial ingredient for the energy transition. But copper production risks not keeping pace with demand warns a report by S&P Global.

We look to 2050, the year in which for many countries – including Europe – climate neutrality should be achieved after radically transforming the way we produce, store and consume energy. By that date, S&P Global analysts estimate, worldwide demand for copper will reach 53 million tons per year, more than double current levels. But the production of Cu will not be enough: almost 3 million tons will be missing. Unless we push the recycling accelerator and more extraction, the report supports.

Those who say that there is enough supply of copper do not take into account the extent of the energy transition,” explains Dan Yergin, vice president of S&P. “Without a little offer, it will not be possible to achieve the climate goals”. The report was commissioned by some of the giants of the mining industry, but S&P assures that they had neither address power on the report nor could they read it until it was published.

Replacement and recycling will not be enough to meet the demand for electric vehicles (EVs), electrical infrastructure and renewable generation. Unless a massive new supply is activated in a timely manner, the zero net emissions target by 2050 will be short-circuited and will remain out of reach,” the report says. It is estimated that demand for copper will already double by 2035 to about 50 million tonnes, before rising again by 3 million tonnes over the next 20 years.

The shortage of this metal will begin to be felt in a few years. In the worst-case scenario, which assumes the same levels as today for extraction and recycling capacity, in 2035 copper production will be lower than the demand of 9.9 million t, 20%. Enough to cause a tsunami along the global supply chain, the report warns. “The expected annual shortfalls will put unprecedented supply chains to the test. The challenges this poses are reminiscent of the oil race of the 20th century, but could be accentuated by an even greater geographical concentration for copper resources and downstream industry for its refining into products.

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