Green energy transition: is there enough metal out there?
The energy sector is currently going through a full-blown transformation, moving away from the centuries old thermal/combustion model towards electrification via low carbon sources: mechanical energy, photovoltaic, or nuclear. Simply put, in the green energy transition, metals are at the center of the production, transport and storage of energy.
In order to achieve this transition, various types of metals will be needed at anunprecedented scale and as such two questions emerge:
• Do we have the mining capacity to meet future demand? Reviewing projected demand and the current supply trajectory and investment pipeline, the simple answer is no.
• Is there enough metal in the earth’s crust to meet future demand? There is an abundance of metal ore which will be more than enough to satisfy future demand.
For instance, between now and 2040 it is estimated that known copper resources in the earth’s crust alone are enough to cover twice demand under a 2-degree scenario. That being said, this future mined metal will require higher prices to be economic.
Going forward, scrap will play an increasingly important role given its carbon advantage over primary metal. For instance, aluminum from scrap has a 95% lower carbon footprint than primary aluminum.
Finally, most governments around the world have recently been ramping up efforts to secure resources
needed for the energy transition, playing catch-up with China which seems far ahead in this race.