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Renewable Energy Transition Continues to Fuel Copper Demand

Rare earths and lithium-Ion technology metals and minerals may be the talk of the town these days — and for good reason — and stakeholders are finally pursuing policies aimed at facilitating secure access for them.   However, as a new analysis by Wood Mackenzie shows, we should not forget about the more traditional mainstay metals in the process. 

Copper certainly isn’t the first metal that comes to mind for most when you think green energy transition —but, as followers of ARPN already know, it is not only a gateway metal to other critical metals and minerals underpinning renewable technology, it is also a key building block of our green energy future.

Discussing the new report’s findings, Wood Mackenzie research analyst Michael Salisbury said:

“Wind technology is the most copper-intensive form of power generation and is anticipated to consume the largest amount of copper over the next ten years in this sector. (…)

Governments have set out to transition from a dependency on carbon emission-intensive power to more renewable energy sources and wind and solar energy sources have become a popular technology choice.

In order to generate, transmit and distribute the energy, copper is required due to its low electrical resistivity, high conductivity, malleability and durability. As a result of the intensity of copper within wind farm projects and the increasing demand for wind energy, consumption of copper is substantial and forecast to grow significantly over the next decade.”

Most of the Copper — roughly 58% — finds its way into wind installations via cabling, and Mackenzie Wood forecasts that between 2018 and 2028, over 3 Mt of Copper will be consumed “in both collector and distribution cabling,” with China and the United States leading this growth in the onshore installation category, and Europe leading consumption in the offshore installation segment. 

Meanwhile, while some manufacturers have worked on substituting Copper in wind installations in light of high Copper prices, alternative materials still come with drawbacks, they remain “reluctant wholly commit to alternative materials until quality and reliability is guaranteed.”  

Of course, in today’s fast-past materials science revolution, forecasts are subject to change — but for the time being, it looks like Copper is here to stay, and should be factored into overall policy consideration when it comes to securing reliable access to critical metals and minerals.