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What is really driving the clean energy revolution?

January 14, 2020

Graphics from Visual Capitalist

In case you haven’t been paying attention to media outlets around you, the clean energy revolution is spreading like wildfire on a global scale. And in recent years, discussions on climate change have been popping up from every corner of the world.

In 2014, Leonardo Di Caprio gave an impassioned speech at the United Nations climate summit. Netflix documentaries show us the ugly truth of how our planet is deteriorating before our eyes. Sixteen year old Greta Thunberg, the unknowing poster-child for the climate crisis and leader of the recent global climate marches, was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize earlier this year. Canada’s House of Commons has declared a national climate emergency, after their Changing Climate Report warned that the country is warming twice as fast as the global average. And just in case that wasn’t enough to stir your sense of urgency, did you know that by 2030 global electricity consumption is expected to grow by 60 percent?

Luckily, technology is advancing at a faster pace than ever before and our energy mix is expanding, adapting, and innovating to meet the growing need for change – leading to a steady increase in demand for clean energy over the last 70 years:

 

Source: Visual Capitalist

SO, WHAT IS CLEAN ENERGY?

We’ve heard the term a thousand times before, but what exactly is clean energy?

Clean energy is power created using renewable sources like sunlight, wind, and water (if you are wondering if water is really a renewable source, check this page). Clean energy also creates less by-products that could be harmful to the environment, such as fly ash from burning coal or carbon dioxide from burning petroleum or natural gas. As such, clean energy sources are inevitably more environmentally friendly than burning fossil fuels.

With the growing demand for clean energy there’s also a greater need for the raw materials that support it. Behind the scenes, there is one metal in particular that lies at the heart of making clean energy possible: Copper.

 

Source: Visual Capitalist

 

WHAT IS THE FIRST THING THAT COMES TO YOUR MIND WHEN YOU THINK OF COPPER?


 

 

We’ve used copper in a number of ways for decades: electrical wires, electrical motors, roofing and plumbing, just to name a few. However, this vital metal plays a much more critical role for renewable energy than many of us are aware of. In fact, in the drive for clean energy, copper is indispensable.

 

HOW MUCH COPPER DO WE NEED IN RENEWABLE ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE?

“Copper is a key enabler in the transition to a low-carbon economy,” says Colin Bennett, head of Market Analysis at the International Copper Association. “… copper will underpin a range of exciting technologies, enabling the 21st Century Energy Transition.”

Why?

If you were looking to build an energy efficient machine, you would look for something that gives great conductivity, malleability and ductility. You’d want something that is highly efficient, and bonus points if it were also easily recyclable. Copper checks all of these boxes: 

 

Source: Visual Capitalist

 

WORKING TOGETHER TOWARDS A MORE SUSTAINABLE FUTURE

In 2015, the International Copper Association founded the Unite for Energy partnership, along with other international entities like the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). Its aim? To set up and mandate Minimum Energy Performance Standards across a range of industrial and consumer products, including motors, air conditioners and refrigerators. It might not sound like much, but these categories alone are expected to collectively account for 60 percent of global electricity consumption by 2030.

Their goal is to take these product categories and increase their energy efficiency and environmental benefits. They have outlined a lofty, and rather aggressive list of goals, including:

∙ To reduce global electricity consumption by 10 percent from current consumption levels; equivalent to the amount of CO2 as the emissions of a half-billion passenger vehicles
∙ To save $350 billion annually through reduced electricity bills

Through initiatives like Unite for Energy, the copper industry is a leader in the global action to make a positive impact and combat climate-change. Evrim’s role in this clean energy revolution may be small, but it’s absolutely critical as we work towards a better future for our planet by chasing one unavoidable truth – we need to find more copper deposits to be able to sustain the demand for the clean energy revolution. Why, if only 13% of the known copper has been mined? This is at topic for another article, but it has to do with the fact that a lot of these copper bodies are not economic to mine.

 

Fitch Solutions, a market data platform, forecasts that global copper demand will increase from 23.6 million tonnes in 2018 to 29.8 by 2027, an annual growth of 2.6%. Yet the copper market is already in deficit – we are not finding enough copper to meet our current demand without the growing need for more copper to enable the transition to cleaner energy.

  • An estimated 4.7 million tonnes of copper were used in 2017 in energy equipment; approximately 17% of all copper usage.
  • A growth of 4.1% per annum to 9.7 million tonnes of copper by 2035 is forecast for clean energy applications.1

 

HOW ABOUT RECYCLING COPPER?

Copper is one of the few metals that can be recycled time and time again without any loss of performance. Unfortunately, most things that use copper remain in use for decades, so meeting the future demand for copper will continue to require a combination of primary production as well as improved methods of recycling.

That is why it is essential that companies like Evrim continue exploring for new sources of copper. Without additional supply of copper, the drive for clean energy will be in jeopardy.

 

 

References

http://www.mining.com/web/clean-energy-boost-copper-demand-ica/

https://copperalliance.org/2018/08/27/renewable-energy-a-sustainable-driver-of-the-copper-industry/

https://www.copper.org/education/c-facts/facts-print.html

https://issues.solarindustrymag.com/article/rise-solar-unique-opportunity-copper

https://www.theverge.com/2019/2/15/18226210/energy-renewables-materials-mining-environment-neodymium-copper-lithium-cobalt

https://copperalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Background_Copper-and-energy-efficiency-1.pdf

https://www.visualcapitalist.com/copper-driving-green-energy-revolution/

https://www.visualcapitalist.com/climate-smart-mining-minerals-for-climate-action/