Geokolloquium: Montag 13.01.2020


Raw Materials for the Energy Transition

Vortragender: Dr. Daniel Smith

University of Leicester

Decarbonising the world will require enormous change in our energy infrastructure, our commercial and private transport, and our domestic energy use. The impending energy transition is feasible, but by any reasonable measure reflects an ambitious and remarkable series of changes. To meet net zero by 2050, the UK (and northern European nations with similar climate and GDP) will need to: switch to an energy mix that is dominated by renewable electricity, rather than gas; replace the petrol- and diesel-powered vehicle fleet with a mix of electric- and hydrogen-powered vehicles; invest heavily in resource and energy efficiency; ramp up carbon capture and storage schemes (active and passive) to bridge the gap in energy supply and offset necessarily carbon emitting industries; encourage a switch to low meat and dairy diets.

The transition to an energy mix dominated by renewables has a significant resources footprint. An economy based around renewable power consumes less fossil fuels, but significantly more metals – steel, aluminium and copper consumption will all increase, and we will consume greater quantity and abundance of the exotic metals that underpin renewable energy technologies. To replace the world’s cars with electric equivalents, annual production would have to increase for neodymium and dysprosium by 70%, copper output would need to more than double, and cobalt output would need to increase at least three and a half times for the entire period from now until 2050 to satisfy the demand.

In this talk, I will attempt to put into context what these changes mean for resource supply in the coming decades, and how the mining industry might meet the changing demands.