Copper is known as “man’s first metal”, and for over 10,000 years, it’s been used in applications ranging from architecture to coinage. Every year, humans already gobble up around 28 million tonnes of the metal in uses mainly related to its electrical properties – and as we transition to a green energy paradigm, copper will be an even more vital ingredient to human progress than it is today. As the world used more and more electricity, copper became known as the obvious choice as an electrical conductor.
Roughly three times more copper is used for electric vehicles in comparison to conventional gas-powered vehicles. This alone could create a new major source of copper demand. By 2035, sources projects a 43% penetration of EVs in the light-duty vehicle market, which will be roughly equal to 110 million cars. Using the above ratios, that’s about 3.6 million tonnes of extra copper demand – equal to about 15% of the current market.
Moreover, renewable energy systems consume approximately five times more copper than conventional power generation systems, making the metal essential for any successful transition to fossil fuel alternatives. Around two hundred 3-megawatt (MW) wind turbines are needed to replace one large steam coal or gas turbine. For every MW of wind power about 3.6 tonnes of copper is needed – and for every MW of photovoltaic solar capacity, about 4-5 tonnes of copper is required.
As more copper being needed for green applications, copper projects are notoriously large-scale in size, and the pipeline of new projects is the lowest in a century. As a result, analysts are expecting that the long-anticipated supply crunch might come sooner than expected.
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