Demand for minerals and metals for green energy technologies could increase up to 500% by 2050

Report: Minerals for Climate Action

26.05.2020 |

Without aluminum no solar cells, without copper no wind turbines and without lithium no batteries for electric vehicles. Without mining, no energy and mobility transition - this was  the key message of the 2017 World Bank study "The Growing Role of Minerals and Metals for a Low-Carbon Future". The more ambitious the climate targets become, the more raw materials will be needed for renewable energy technologies and energy storage to allow for a transition to a low-carbon future.

The World Bank recently updated and released its new report: "Minerals for Climate Action: The Mineral Intensity of the Clean Energy Transition". This report is part of the joint World Bank and IFC Climate Smart Mining strategy. The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through the sector programme Extractives and Development of GIZ has helped developing and implementing the Climate Smart Mining Strategy from the very beginning.

Key findings of the study:

  • It estimates that over 3 billion tons of raw materials will be needed to deploy wind, solar and geothermal power, as well as energy storage, required for achieving a below 2°C future.
  • The production of graphite, lithium and cobalt, could increase by nearly 500 % by 2050*, to meet the growing demand for clean energy technologies.
  • Though demand for some base raw materials, such as aluminum and copper, is expected to be lower at up to 3 % per year, the report assumes that about 103 million tons (aluminum) and 29 million tons (copper) will be mined by 2050.
Demand for Minerals by 2050 from Energy Technologies
  • Even though clean energy technologies will require more raw materials, the carbon footprint of their production-from extraction to end use-will account for only 6% of the greenhouse gas emissions generated by fossil fuel technologies.

Carbon Footprint of Clean Energy Technologies

  • Recycling and reuse of raw materials will play an important role in meeting increasing raw material demand. It also notes that even if we scale up recycling rates for minerals like copper and aluminum by 100%, recycling and reuse would still not be enough to meet the demand for renewable energy technologies and energy storage.
  • Each metal or mineral carries a different demand risk. Some raw materials, like copper and molybdenum, will be used in a range of technologies, while others, such as graphite and lithium, may be needed for just one technology: battery storage. This means that any changes in clean energy technology deployments could have significant consequences on demand for certain raw materials.

Where do the numbers come from?
The methodology of the report is based on a spreadsheet model that derives the total global demand of relevant minerals and metals from electricity generation and energy storage up to 2050. The electricity generation and energy storage scenarios use data from the 2016 and 2017 energy technology perspectives of the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the 2019 global energy transformation of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) to identify the amount of minerals and metals that would be required under each scenario to supply clean energy technologies.

A low-carbon future will be much more raw material-intensive than a "business as usual" scenario. The growing demand for raw materials represents an opportunity for resource-rich developing countries. At the same time, however, there are a number of risks and challenges associated with increasing mining activities. The answer to a truly green energy and mobility transition lies in environmentally friendly and climate-smart mining approach.

The World Bank's Climate Smart Mining Initiative was officially launched on May 1st, 2019, with the aim of promoting projects related to climate-sensitive raw material extraction. Supporting partner countries in climate-sensitive raw material extraction is also a high priority for the German Development Cooperation. This is why the German government has not only supported developing the Climate Smart Mining strategy but has also included the initiative in its current raw materials strategy. The core statements of the strategy can be found here.

For further information please contact Johannes Lohmeyer or Lisa Stellner.


*Compared to 2018 production levels.

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