HOW many people, I wonder, have thought about the sheer quantity of raw material required to deliver Net Zero by the end of this century, let alone by 2050? How many are aware that Tesla alone may consume most of the associated raw materials in the world to make a few million electric vehicles (EVs)? Tesla are making around a million a year but more than 1,500million internal combustion engine (ICE) cars will need to be replaced in the great renewables utopia. Will there will be enough minerals and other raw materials to go round to allow ICE cars to be phased out by 2035 and for Net Nero to be delivered by 2050?
The key materials range from copper to rarer metals such as lithium, the refinement of which involves the release of CO2.
One specialist study reports that by 2050 Europe’s plans for producing clean energy technologies will require annually 4.5million tonnes of aluminium (an increase of 33 per cent on today’s use), 1.5million tonnes of copper (35 per cent), 800,000 tonnes of lithium (3,500 per cent), 400,000 tonnes of nickel (100 per cent), 300,000 tonnes of zinc (10 to 15 per cent), 200,000 tonnes of silicon (45 per cent), 60,000 tonnes of cobalt (330 per cent) and 3,000 tonnes of the rare earths metals neodymium, dysprosium and praseodymium (700-2,600 per cent). And currently the primary sources are in Russia and China.
Global copper production alone (unsurprisingly given the huge government subsidies behind renewable technology) has risen from around 16million tonnes in 2010 to more than 22million tonnes in 2022. Renewable energy plant requires on average eight to 12 times more copper than fossil-based power generation, and EVs three to four times more copper than ICE vehicles.