Global copper usage in solar-powered grids is likely to rise to 800,000-990,000mt by 2040 from 350,000mt last year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) noted in a report.
The Paris-based agency expects demand for the red metal to grow by 80pc in the next two decades in its report titled “The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions,” released this week.
Solar power generation requires twice as much copper as coal-fired electricity and in a sustainable development scenario (SDS), solar-generation volumes will drive the demand for new infrastructure. The study reiterates that aside from copper other recycled minerals like nickel, cobalt and lithium will also make much larger contributions to production by 2030. By 2040 secondary battery production will require 7pc more nickel and 5pc more of copper and lithium. Reused batteries will contribute 1-2pc to the global sustainable production of solar grids.
The IEA emphasized the use of copper because of its electricity transmission properties, especially in subterranean and sub-sea power lines. The metal is preferred to aluminum, which is widely deployed in overhead lines.
Even if production expands sufficiently to meet demand, global dependence on any one country to refine copper ore into processed material must reduce. The agency outlined six recommendations for countries to ensure that energy-transition minerals like copper are available worldwide. They include:
- Policy support to enable producers access to adequate investment in exploring diversified supply sources
- Promoting technological innovations at all stages of the value chain
- Scaling-up global recycling efforts
- Enhancing supply chain resilience and market transparency
- Making higher environmental and social standards mainstream
- Strengthening international collaboration between producers and consumers
The report concluded with IEA suggesting that measures like international coordination and enhanced due diligence will play an important role in mitigating environmental or social risks across the supply chain. Governments should also consider stronger actions to tackle CO2 emissions from mineral development since the impact may slow the process of clean-energy transition.