Peter Tertzakian: The transition to an electrified clean energy economy is going to result in a monumental draw on metals and minerals from the earth’s crust
Like many in the energy business, I marvel at how fast the cost of producing renewable power, LED light bulbs and lithium-ion batteries has fallen over the past decade. Depending on what’s being measured, some costs are down by more than 90 per cent.
Should we assume these downward-trending cost curves are sustainable? And will this type of cost reduction be applicable to other emerging clean energy devices?
Based on advances in technology and more efficient manufacturing processes, the short answer is a qualified yes. Yet, we shouldn’t be blinded by the glow of the new economy — things like data science, process engineering, robotics and advanced materials — which, to date, have been the principal drivers for achieving these cost reductions.
From the shadows, we are now seeing that the old economy isn’t so old after all. Much of the new energy transition hardware requires earthly resources — metals and minerals — which are suddenly escalating in price.
Prices of copper, nickel, cobalt, platinum and rare earth elements are all inflating as electric vehicles and the wider electrification trend starts pulling on constrained resources.