A lower carbon world requires more copper

Investigating the metal intensity of a key renewable energy generation technology

Renewable energy technologies need metals

The growth in wind turbine installations over the next ten years posits additional copper to be mined equivalent to almost 30% of current mine output.

Background

Generating electricity using wind turbines is the most copper intensive form of electricity production, with around 5.4 tonnes of copper required for each installed MW of generation capacity for onshore installations and 15.3 tonnes of copper required for each installed MW of generation capacity for offshore wind turbines [1].

Installed wind turbine capacity increased by over 20% per annum from ~10 GW to ~564 GW over the past 20 years (1998-2018).  Current forecasts suggest a further 780 GW of capacity will be installed over the next 10 years.

Insight

The continued exponential growth in electricity production using wind turbines will require at least 5.5Mt of additional copper to be produced from mines to meet demand over the next ten years. This additional demand for copper is significant, representing 28% of current primary copper supply, and will require an additional 1.25 billion tonnes of copper ore to be mined based on the current average industry copper ore grade of ~0.50% per tonne and typical processing recoveries.

Action

  • ~30%Additional copper supplyrequired to meet forecast wind turbine buildout over next ten years

RCF is well positioned to participate as a strategic capital partner to projects aimed at robust, sustainable sources of copper metal production to ensure society has the fundamental primary materials to solve global resource constraints including, but not limited to, the build out of additional wind turbines for emission free electricity production.

Sources: BP Statistical Review of World Energy (2019), International Copper Study Group Data (2019), SNL Copper data (2019), Wood Mackenzie Data (2019), RCF analysis.

1. Inclusive of copper contained in generator, transformer, tower cables, gearbox, collector cables, substation and distribution cables.

Metals contained in a wind turbine

Infographic showing the makeup of a common wind turbine which is heavily reliant on metals such as iron, copper, nickel and zinc

Information shown for Copper is used for informational and demonstrative purposes only. Each commodity will be subject to its own facts and circumstances which may make it more or less likely to align with the example provided. This information should not be deemed to be a recommendation of any specific commodity, company or security. Other commodities are important factors in the delivery of renewable energy, the details of which are not shown.
The information provided herein regarding wind turbines and more broadly renewable energy technologies has been supplied for “informational purposes” only and is not intended to be and does not constitute investment advice. This analysis was compiled from sources that RCF believes to be reliable. Neither RCF nor any independent third party has independently audited or verified this information. RCF disclaims any and all liability relating to such information, and no representation or warranty is made, expressed or implied, as to the accuracy or completeness of the information provided in this presentation.

All information in this insight is as of December 17, 2019, unless otherwise noted, and is based on information available at a certain point in time. All information should be assumed as subject to change; updated information will not be provided.