Copper, silicon and lithium are critical to the future of energy systems: IEA


The International Energy Agency (IEA) said copper, silicon, lithium and other rare earth minerals are critical to the future of global energy systems.

The IEA revealed this in its latest World Energy Outlook (WEO) published in October and seen by Naijaonpoint.

These minerals are in great demand in the renewable energy sector and are used to manufacture everything from solar panels to batteries, etc.

Possible supply gaps: In July 2022, S&P Global Market Intelligence projected that global demand for copper will double by 2035, opening a supply gap that threatens climate goals and poses challenges for net-zero emissions by 2050.

Dubbed the metal of electrification, S&P Global Market Intelligence highlighted the possibility of a copper supply shortage beginning in 2025 and lasting for most of the following decade.

Importance of copper: According to the WEO Report 2022 According to the IEA, copper is widely used in electricity transmission and distribution networks, but its conductive properties also make it an essential component for low-emission power generation technologies such as photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, wind turbines and batteries.

Rare Earth Elements (REEs): These all-important elements are used to make the permanent magnets for direct-drive and hybrid wind turbine motors (which will account for 30% of wind installations by 2021).

Importance of silicon: Silicon is used to make solar panels. As the deployment of variable renewable technologies increases, the need for storage technologies to supplement renewable electricity is also increasing rapidly.

Importance of lithium: Lithium-ion batteries are the fastest growing storage technology in the world, making lithium indispensable for future electrical systems.

The global context: WEO says that substitution and recycling will not be enough to meet the demands of electric vehicles (EV), energy infrastructure and renewable generation. Copper shortages may also endanger international security. A low emission electrical system relies much more heavily on critical minerals.

  • A solar PV installation requires 6 times more critical mineral inputs (7,000 kg per megawatt of installed power capacity) than a natural gas-fired power plant.
  • An onshore wind installation requires 9 times more critical mineral inputs (10,000 kg/MW).
  • An offshore wind installation requires 13 times more critical mineral inputs (15,000 kg/MW).
  • Rising mineral prices and volatile supply chains that could be affected by geopolitical events should be seen as warning signs for policymakers to pay more attention to the importance of these minerals for a safe and sustainable energy transition.

The Nigerian Context: The Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) solid minerals report, as of 2020, states that the total volume of production for 2020 was 71.1 million tonnes, with a total royalty value of N3 billion. The report says granite, limestone, sand and laterite were the largest contributors to mineral volume and royalties in 2020. It also says granite and limestone have continuously dominated production volume and revenue. for royalties in recent years.

Nigeria’s electricity sector lacks supply, due to aging infrastructure as well as low-level transmission and distribution capacity. The country is therefore in dire need of better power systems which, according to the IEA, will be powered by copper, lithium, silicon and rare earth elements.

Available information indicates that Nigeria is not yet a major global player in the production of copper, silicon, lithium and rare earth elements. In areas where Nigeria produces some of the critical minerals highlighted, the data has not yet been fully adopted and this hampers investments in the country’s mining sector. According to the Critical mission report of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a lack of data is hampering Nigeria’s ability to attract sustainable investment in mining.

why does this matter: If Nigeria, as a country with an active mining sector, still lacks data on its activities and is not yet a player in copper, lithium and silicon mining, the country will be left behind in the race to secure the supply of the minerals necessary critics. in the global energy transition. With proper data and sufficient investment in the mining sector, Nigeria can be a key mineral supplier in the energy transition and also be a beneficiary of improved energy systems, especially as the country is currently building an impressive portfolio of solar PV projects. for homes and businesses. .

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