With a growing world population, changes towards producing more renewable energy and electric vehicles coupled in the coming years will boost the demand for copper. Energy that is collected from renewable resources are termed as Renewable energy, these are naturally replenished, like the sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat. In four important areas energy is provided by renewable energy, which include, the generation of electricity, heating/cooling air and water, transportation, and rural (off-grid) energy services. Copper is an important component in renewable energy systems like solar energy, wind energy, hydropower and electric vehicles.
Among the engineering metals, copper is known to be an excellent thermal and electrical conductor; power systems that utilize copper generate and transmit energy with high efficiency and with minimum environmental impacts. Less electricity needs to be generated to satisfy a given power demand by using copper instead of other lower electrical energy-efficient metal conductors.
Copper conductors are used in major electrical renewable energy components, such as turbines, generators, transformers, inverters, cables, power electronics, and information cable. In turbines/generators, transformers/inverters, and cables, copper usage is approximately the same.
For many years, copper and its alloys have been a part of renewable and other “green” energy systems. Copper tubing found in highly efficient, direct-exchange geothermal heat pumps and the massive amounts of copper cables employed in the harnessing of wind energy is an example. Also, in solar-based electrical power production copper is and will be playing.
A wind turbine contains 3-4 tons of copper per megawatt. Electric vehicles can use up to 3 times the amount of copper as a conventional car. Copper is also easily recycled and can be reused over and again. Copper is and will remain an important factor in the future of renewable energy development. Ashley Brinson, executive director of the Warren Center thinktank in Sydney had recently said that, “Decarbonisation generally favours copper.”
The demand for Copper is said to rise in the coming years as it can be seen in Asia alone, that the technological factor together with surging demographic growth is predicted to lead by 2030 to an additional 30.8 million tonnes of copper demand, he told a seminar in London sponsored by industry group the International Copper Association (ICA).
According to the ICA, in 2016, the global copper industry is set to produce 22.5 million tonnes of copper, up 3.6 percent on last year’s output.
In the hope of reducing climate-changing carbon emissions, car drivers are being encouraged in most countries to switch to rechargeable electric vehicles and in order to conform to the sustainability goals; countries have adopted various renewable energy projects.
India ranks third among 40 countries in EY’s Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index, on back of strong focus by the government on promoting renewable energy and implementation of projects in a time bound manner. India had adopted a number of Renewable energy projects across the country and has plans of coming up with more. Some of the projects would include the Gujarat solar plant, the Welspun Solar MP project which is one of tha largest in India, and many more.
A policy blueprint has been unveiled this month by the Indian Government that aims at electrifying all vehicles in the country by 2032, in a move that is catching the attention of car makers that are already investing in electric technology in China such as BYD and SAIC .
Nagpur has become India’s first city to have electric mass mobility system. The city will have around 200 electric vehicles which include taxis, buses, e-rickshaw and auto rickshaws, all of which will be fully owned by cab aggregator Ola.
As it can be seen the energy and transport sectors will also be major drivers of copper demand. In India itself the growth and use of Renewable energy sources is growing, therefore there will be a rise in the demand of copper.
Jean-Sebastien Jacques, chief executive of global mining group Rio Tinto, a major copper producer said that renewable energy resources require 4 to 12-times as much copper as traditional fossil fuel-based power generation.
By 2030 the growing demand for solar power generation capacity will require between 7 and 10 million tonnes of copper, said Jacques, who is also the president of the ICA.
And for electric cars the growing market share will also boost demand for copper. As it can be seen, that cities in India have also started adopting electric cars like Nagpur being the first. Car manufacturers are also starting to recognize this demand. Mahindra & Mahindra, the Indian automaker in an effort to boost green car sales plans to invest in building long-range electric vehicles, high-power battery packs and power trains.
Jean-Sebastien Jacques said that in a full electric vehicle with 90 or more kilos of copper used – more than three to four times copper used in a gas-powered car – impact is clear that the use of electric vehicles could have on copper demand.
The market for renewable energy technologies and Electric cars has and will continue to grow. Climate change concerns, along with high oil prices, peak oil and increasing government support, are driving factors of increase in demand renewable energy and the use of electric cars.
Therefore, given that copper is the highest rated electrical conductor among the engineering metals; it will continue to play an important role in renewable energy systems and the electric cars.
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