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Decarbonising materials for the energy system transition

December 18, 2023 Category: Climate, Technology Work Area: Carbon Capture

Efforts to mitigate climate change are anticipated to lead to the substantial deployment of renewable energy assets such as solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind power over the course of the coming decades. 

Whilst an energy system dominated by renewable energy will significantly reduce the consumption of fuels as raw materials, it does imply a shift of the consumption of raw materials to the construction phase. For example, for an equivalent installed capacity, the required demand for aluminium by wind and solar is up to 90 times that of fossil fuels.

The purpose of this white paper is to:

  • Quantify the raw materials requirement of the energy transition for the EU
  • Highlight that the broader process of mining and mineral processing to produce these materials is itself energy intensive and, in the context of the incumbent energy and economic system, carbon intensive.

Unless the carbon emissions arising from these industries are themselves abated, the climate mitigation impact of the deployment of substantial quantities of renewable energy will be significantly constrained.