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Energy Shift

Visualizing China’s Dominance in Clean Energy Metals

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Visualizing China’s Dominance in Clean Energy Metals

Visualizing China’s Dominance in Clean Energy Metals

Renewable sources of energy are expected to replace fossil fuels over the coming decades, and this large-scale transition will have a downstream effect on the demand of raw materials. More green energy means more wind turbines, solar panels, and batteries needed, and more clean energy metals necessary to build these technologies.

Today’s graphic, based on data from the International Energy Agency (IEA), illustrates where the extraction and processing of key metals for the green revolution take place.

It shows that despite being the world’s biggest carbon polluter, China is also the largest producer of most of the world’s critical minerals for the green revolution.

Where Clean Energy Metals are Produced

China produces 60% of all rare earth elements used as components in high technology devices, including smartphones and computers.

The country also has a 13% share of the lithium production market, which is still dominated by Australia (52%) and Chile (22%). The highly reactive element is key to producing rechargeable batteries for mobile phones, laptops, and electric vehicles.

China's ShareExtractionProcessing
Copper 8%40%
Nickel 5%35%
Cobalt 1.5%65%
Rare Earths 60%87%
Lithium13%58%

But even more than extraction, China is the dominant economy when it comes to processing operations. The country’s share of refining is around 35% for nickel, 58% for lithium, 65% for cobalt, and 87% for rare earth elements.

Despite being the largest economy in the world, the U.S. does not appear among the largest producers of any of the metals listed. To shorten the gap, the Biden administration recently launched an executive order to review the American strategy for critical and strategic materials.

It’s also worth noting that Russia also does not appear among the top producers when it comes to clean energy metals, despite being one of the world’s leading producers of minerals like copper, iron, and palladium.

Low Regulation in the Clean Metal Supply Chain

While China leads all countries in terms of cobalt processing, the metal itself is primarily extracted in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Still, Chinese interests own 15 of the 17 industrial cobalt operations in the DRC, according to a data analysis by The New York Times and Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.

Unfortunately, the DRC’s cobalt production has been criticized due to reports of corruption and lack of regulation.

Part of the Congolese cobalt comes from artisanal mines with low regulation. Of the 255,000 Congolese artisanal miners, an estimated 40,000 are children, some as young as six years old.

The Rise of Clean Energy Metals

The necessary shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy opens up interesting questions about how geopolitics, and these supply chains, will be affected.

In the race to secure raw materials needed for the green revolution, new world powers could emerge as demand for clean energy metals grows.

For now, China has the lead.

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Energy Shift

Visualizing Global Energy Production in 2023

Fossil fuels accounted for 81% of the energy mix.

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Pie chart showing energy production by source in 2023.

Visualizing Global Energy Production in 2023

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Global primary energy consumption reached a new record of 620 exajoules (EJ) for the second consecutive year in 2023, up from 607 exajoules in 2022.

This graphic shows the sources of energy used globally in 2023, measured in exajoules. Data is from the 2024 Statistical Review of World Energy by the Energy Institute, released in June 2024.

Fossil Fuels Accounted for 81% of the Energy Mix

Despite efforts to decarbonize the economy, fossil fuels still accounted for over 80% of the global energy mix in 2023.

Oil was responsible for 32% of the energy consumed around the world, followed by coal (26%) and then natural gas (23%).

Energy SourceConsumption in exajoulePercentage (%)Fossil Fuel
Oil19632%Yes
Coal16426%Yes
Natural Gas14423%Yes
Hydro-electric406%No
Nuclear Energy254%No
Other Renewables518%No
Total620100%

The Asia-Pacific region was responsible for nearly 80% of global coal output, with significant contributions from Australia, China, India, and Indonesia.

Global coal consumption also continued to rise, exceeding 164 EJ for the first time ever.

China remains the largest consumer of coal, accounting for 56% of the world’s total consumption. However, in 2023, India’s coal consumption exceeded the combined total of Europe and North America for the first time.

Oil consumption, in particular, rebounded strongly last year compared to 2022, largely due to China relaxing its zero-COVID lockdown policies.

Renewables’ share of total primary energy consumption reached 14.6%, an increase of 0.4% over the previous year. Together with nuclear, they represented roughly 19% of total primary energy consumption.

Renewables like solar and wind accounted for 8% of the energy generated in 2023, followed by hydroelectric (6%) and nuclear (4%).

Editor’s Note: The graphic was updated on July 16, 2024, to correct an error in the fossil fuel values.

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Energy Shift

Visualized: The Growth of Clean Energy Stocks

Visual Capitalist partnered with EnergyX to analyze five major clean energy stocks and explore the factors driving this growth.

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This line chart shows the growth of clean energy stocks and hints at their cumulative five-year returns.

The Growth of Clean Energy Stocks

Over the last few years, energy investment trends have shifted from fossil fuels to renewable and sustainable energy sources. Long-term energy investors now see significant returns from clean energy stocks, especially compared to those invested in fossil fuels alone.

For this graphic, Visual Capitalist has collaborated with EnergyX to examine the rise of clean energy stocks and gain a deeper understanding of the factors driving this growth.

Sustainable Energy Stock Performance

In 2023, the IEA reported that 62% of all energy investment went toward sustainable sources. As the world embraces sustainable energy and technologies like EVs, it’s no surprise that clean energy companies provide solid returns for their investors over long periods.

Taking the top-five clean energy stocks by market cap (as of April 2024) and charting their five-year cumulative returns, it is clear that investments in clean energy are growing:

CompanyPrice: 01/04/2019Price: 12/29/20245-Year-Return %
First Solar, Inc.$46.32$172.28272%
Enphase Energy, Inc.$5.08$132.142,501%
Consolidated Edison, Inc.$76.55$90.9719%
NextEra Energy, Inc.$43.13$60.7441%
Brookfield Renewable Partners$14.78$26.2878%
promotional graphic with a button and wheel that promotes the EnergyX investment site

But how does this compare to the performance of fossil fuel stocks?

When comparing the performance of the S&P Global Oil Index and the S&P Clean Energy Index between 2019 and 2023, we see that the former returned 15%, whereas the latter returned an impressive 41%. This trend demonstrates the potential for clean energy stocks to yield significant returns on an industry level, sparking optimism and excitement for potential investors.

A Shift In Returns

With global investment trends moving away from traditional, non-sustainable sources, the companies that could shape the energy transition provide investors with alternative opportunities and avenues for growth.

One such company is EnergyX. The lithium technology company has patented a groundbreaking technology that can improve lithium extraction rates by an incredible 300%, and its stock price has grown tenfold since its first offering in 2021.

promotional graphic that promotes the EnergyX investment site
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