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Energy Shift

The Raw Materials That Fuel the Green Revolution

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The Raw Materials That Fuel the Green Revolution

The Raw Materials That Fuel the Green Revolution

View the high resolution version of today’s graphic by clicking here.

Records for renewable energy consumption were smashed around the world in 2017.

Looking at national and state grids, progress has been extremely impressive. In Costa Rica, for example, renewable energy supplied five million people with all of their electricity needs for a stretch of 300 consecutive days. Meanwhile, the U.K. broke 13 green energy records in 2017 alone, and California’s largest grid operator announced it got 67.2% of its energy from renewables (excluding hydro) on May 13, 2017.

The corporate front is also looking promising, and Google has led the way by buying 536 MW of wind power to offset 100% of the company’s electricity usage. This makes the tech giant the biggest corporate purchaser of renewable energy on the planet.

But while these examples are plentiful, this progress is only the tip of the iceberg – and green energy still represents a small but rapidly growing segment. For a full green shift to occur, we’ll need to 10x what we’re currently sourcing from renewables.

To do this, we will need to procure massive amounts of natural resources – they just won’t be the fossil fuels that we’re used to.

Green Metals Required

Today’s infographic comes from Cambridge House as a part of the lead-up to their flagship conference, the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference 2018.

A major theme of the conference is sustainable energy – and the math indeed makes it clear that to fully transition to a green economy, we’ll need vast amounts of metals like copper, silicon, aluminum, lithium, cobalt, rare earths, and silver.

These metals and minerals are needed to generate, store, and distribute green energy. Without them, the reality is that technologies like solar panels, wind turbines, lithium-ion batteries, nuclear reactors, and electric vehicles are simply not possible.

First Principles

How do you get a Tesla to drive over 300 miles (480 km) on just one charge?

Here’s what you need: a lightweight body, a powerful electric motor, a cutting-edge battery that can store energy efficiently, and a lot of engineering prowess.

Putting the engineering aside, all of these things need special metals to work. For the lightweight body, aluminum is being substituted in for steel. For the electric motor, Tesla is using AC induction motors (Model S and X) that require large amounts of copper and aluminum. Meanwhile, Chevy Bolts and soon Tesla will use permanent magnet motors (in the Model 3) that use rare earths like neodymium, dysprosium, and praseodymium.

The batteries, as we’ve shown in our five-part Battery Series, are a whole other supply chain challenge. The lithium-ion batteries used in EVs need lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite, and many other metals or minerals to function. Each Tesla battery, by the way, weighs about 1,200 lbs (540 kg) and makes up 25% the total mass of the car.

While EVs are a topic we’ve studied in depth, the same principles apply for solar panels, wind turbines, nuclear reactors, grid-scale energy storage solutions, or anything else we need to secure a sustainable future. Solar panels need silicon and silver, while wind turbines need rare earths, steel, and aluminum.

Even nuclear, which is the safest energy type by deaths per TWh and generates barely any emissions, needs uranium in order to generate power.

The Pace of Progress

The green revolution is happening at a breakneck speed – and new records will continue to be set each year.

Over $200 billion was invested into renewables in 2016, and more net renewable capacity was added than coal and gas put together:

Power TypeNet Global Capacity Added (2016)
Renewable (excl. large hydro)138 GW
Coal54 GW
Gas37 GW
Large hydro15 GW
Nuclear10 GW
Other flexible capacity5 GW

The numbers suggest that this is the only start of the green revolution.

However, to fully work our way off of fossil fuels, we will need to procure large amounts of the metals that make sustainable energy possible.

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Electrification

Visualizing the World’s Largest Copper Producers

Many new technologies critical to the energy transition rely on copper. Here are the world’s largest copper producers.

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Visualizing the World’s Largest Copper Producers

Man has relied on copper since prehistoric times. It is a major industrial metal with many applications due to its high ductility, malleability, and electrical conductivity.

Many new technologies critical to fighting climate change, like solar panels and wind turbines, rely on the red metal.

But where does the copper we use come from? Using the U.S. Geological Survey’s data, the above infographic lists the world’s largest copper producing countries in 2021.

The Countries Producing the World’s Copper

Many everyday products depend on minerals, including mobile phones, laptops, homes, and automobiles. Incredibly, every American requires 12 pounds of copper each year to maintain their standard of living.

North, South, and Central America dominate copper production, as these regions collectively host 15 of the 20 largest copper mines.

Chile is the top copper producer in the world, with 27% of global copper production. In addition, the country is home to the two largest mines in the world, Escondida and Collahuasi.

Chile is followed by another South American country, Peru, responsible for 10% of global production.

RankCountry2021E Copper Production (Million tonnes)Share
#1🇨🇱 Chile5.627%
#2🇵🇪 Peru2.210%
#3🇨🇳 China1.88%
#4🇨🇩 DRC 1.88%
#5🇺🇸 United States1.26%
#6🇦🇺 Australia0.94%
#7🇷🇺 Russia0.84%
#8🇿🇲 Zambia0.84%
#9🇮🇩 Indonesia0.84%
#10🇲🇽 Mexico0.73%
#11🇨🇦 Canada0.63%
#12🇰🇿 Kazakhstan0.52%
#13🇵🇱 Poland0.42%
🌍 Other countries2.813%
🌐 World total21.0100%

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and China share third place, with 8% of global production each. Along with being a top producer, China also consumes 54% of the world’s refined copper.

Copper’s Role in the Green Economy

Technologies critical to the energy transition, such as EVs, batteries, solar panels, and wind turbines require much more copper than conventional fossil fuel based counterparts.

For example, copper usage in EVs is up to four times more than in conventional cars. According to the Copper Alliance, renewable energy systems can require up to 12x more copper compared to traditional energy systems.

Technology2020 Installed Capacity (megawatts)Copper Content (2020, tonnes)2050p Installed Capacity (megawatts)Copper Content (2050p, tonnes)
Solar PV126,735 MW633,675372,000 MW1,860,000
Onshore Wind105,015 MW451,565202,000 MW868,600
Offshore Wind6,013 MW57,72545,000 MW432,000

With these technologies’ rapid and large-scale deployment, copper demand from the energy transition is expected to increase by nearly 600% by 2030.

As the transition to renewable energy and electrification speeds up, so will the pressure for more copper mines to come online.

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Energy Shift

Should You Invest in Disruptive Materials?

Disruptive materials are experiencing a demand supercycle. See how these materials are helping revolutionize next generation technologies. (Sponsored)

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The-10-vital-Ingredients-Behind-Explosive-and-Emerging-Technologies

Should You Invest in Disruptive Materials?

New technologies are having a transformative impact on the transportation and energy sectors. As these technologies develop, it is becoming clear that a small selection of materials, metals, and minerals—known collectively as disruptive materials—are critical components required to innovate.

This graphic from Global X ETFs takes a closer look at the disruptive materials that are key to fueling climate technologies. With a growing global effort to decarbonize, disruptive materials may enter a demand supercycle, characterized as a structural decades-long period of rising demand and rising prices.

Building Blocks Of the Future

There are 10 categories of disruptive materials in particular that are expected to see demand growth as part of their role within emerging technologies.

Disruptive MaterialApplicability
ZincProtects metal surfaces from rusting through a process called galvanization. This is essential to wind energy.
Palladium & PlatinumOften used in catalytic converters, thus playing a major role in hydrogen fuel cell technology.
NickelA corrosion-resistant metal used to make other metals more durable.
ManganeseAn important mineral needed for battery and steel production.
LithiumThe foundational component of lithium-ion batteries.
GrapheneThe thinnest known material which is also 100x stronger than steel. Used in sensors and transistors.
Rare Earth MaterialsA broader category including 15 lanthanide series elements, plus yttrium. These metals are found in all types of electronics.
CopperA reliable conductor of electricity. It can also kill bacteria, making it useful during pandemics.
CobaltAn important ingredient for rechargeable lithium batteries, found only in specific regions of the world.
Carbon Fiber & Carbon MaterialsStrong and lightweight materials with applications in aerospace and the automotive industry.

While these 10 categories do not make up the entire disruptive material universe, all are essential to securing a climate and technologically advanced future.

How The Green Revolution Is Transforming the Materials Market

The data on rising global temperatures and extreme weather events is jarring and has governments and organizations from all over the world ramping up efforts to combat its effects through new budgets and policies.

Take the soaring total number of U.S. climate disasters for instance. Most recently in 2021, the quantity of weather disasters stood at 20 whereas in 1980 it stood as a much smaller figure of three. In addition, total disaster costs have risen above $100 billion per year.

Globally, the top 10 most extreme weather events in 2021 racked up $170 billion in costs.

RankClimate EventCost ($B)
#1Hurricane Ida$65.0B
#2European floods$43.0B
#3Texas winter storm$23.0B
#4Henan floods$17.6B
#5British Columbia floods$7.5B
#6France’s “cold wave”$5.6B
#7Cyclone Yaas$3.0B
#8Australian floods$2.1B
#9Typhoon In-fa $2.0B
#10Cyclone Tauktae $1.5B

What’s more, some research estimates that these rising costs are far from coming to a halt. By 2050 the annual cost of weather disasters could surge past $1 trillion a year. In an effort to slow rising temperatures, governments are dramatically increasing their climate spending. For example, the U.S. is set to spend $80 billion annually over the next five years.

To see how climate spending impacts the materials market, consider the complexity behind a typical solar panel which requires almost 20 different materials including copper for wiring, boron and phosphorus for semiconductors, as well as zinc and magnesium for its frame.

Overall, these materials are essential to the expansion of a variety of emerging technologies like lithium batteries, solar panels, wind turbines, fuel cells, robotics, and 3D printers. And therefore, are translating to higher levels of demand for the disruptive materials that make combating climate change possible.

Estimated Disruptive Material Growth by 2040

A societal shift in how we address climate change is forecasted to lead to a demand supercycle for disruptive materials and acts as a massive tailwind.

But just how large is this expected level of demand to be? To answer this, we use two scenarios created by The International Energy Agency (IEA). The first is the Stated Policies Scenario, a more conservative model that assumes demand for material will double by 2040 relative to 2020 levels. Under this scenario, it’s assumed that society takes climate action in line with current and existing policies and commitments.

Then there is the Sustainable Development Scenario, which assumes more drastic action will take place to transform global energy use and meet international climate goals. Under this scenario, the demand for disruptive materials could rise as high as 300% relative to 2020 levels.

However, under both scenarios there’s still significant demand for each type of material.

Disruptive Material

Stated Policies Scenario Demand Relative to 2020

Sustainable Development Scenario Demand Relative to 2020

Lithium13X42X
Graphite8X25X
Cobalt6X21X
Nickel7X19X
Manganese3X8X
Rare earth elements3X7X
Copper2X3X

Overall, lithium is expected to see the most explosive surge in demand, as it could reach anywhere from 13 to 42 times the level of demand seen in 2020, based on the above scenarios.

Introducing the Global X Disruptive Materials ETF

The Global X Disruptive Materials ETF (Ticker: DMAT) seeks to provide investment results that correspond generally to the price and yield performance, before fees and expenses, of the Solactive Disruptive Materials Index.

Investors can use this passively managed solution to gain exposure to the rising demand for disruptive materials and climate technologies.

The Global X Disruptive Materials ETF is a passively managed solution that can be used to gain exposure to the rising demand for disruptive materials. Click the link to learn more.

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