A new World Bank Group report – released today – finds that the production of minerals, such as graphite, lithium and cobalt, could increase by nearly 500% by 2050, to meet the growing demand for clean energy technologies. It estimates that over 3 billion tons of minerals and metals will be needed to deploy wind, solar and geothermal power, as well as energy storage, required for achieving a below 2 degrees C future.
The report “Minerals for Climate Action: The Mineral Intensity of the Clean Energy Transition” also finds that even though clean energy technologies will require more minerals, the carbon footprint of their production—from extraction to end use—will account for only 6% of the greenhouse gas emissions generated by fossil fuel technologies. The report underscores the important role that recycling and reuse of minerals will play in meeting increasing mineral demand. It also notes that even if we scale up recycling rates for minerals like copper and aluminum by 100%, recycling and reuse would still not be enough to meet the demand for renewable energy technologies and energy storage.
The interesting part is that the report looks at mostly the mineral demand for development of power generation facilities for the different renewable energy technologies, including geothermal.
In the estimates by the World Bank the demand for Nickel and Chromium carries the largest share of minerals, yet more importantly the relatively large demand for Titanium, for geothermal represents around 64% of the total demand for Titanium by renewable energy technologies.
“In the context of this World Bank study, it is to state that the report does not look into how geothermal energy actually could supply some of the minerals, e.g. Lithium from the geothermal brine derived by tapping geothermal resources for power generation. So while geothermal requires minerals for its own development, it can be an important source of rare metals.” Alexander Richter, Editor, ThinkGeoEnergy.