Copper Demand with Renewable Energy Increasing

Globally, copper demand with renewable energy deployment is increasing with estimates of at least 10 million tonnes more copper needed over the next decade. Wherever there is electricity, copper is there to conduct it.

As we head towards net-zero emissions, record quantities of copper will be required. Copper is critical for solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles and battery storage. We are headed for a supply crunchMarket analysts estimate the annual copper supply shortfall could be as high as 10 million tonnes by 2030 if no new mines are built. This means prices are on the rise, giving miners an incentive to bring new copper mines to market.

Copper Demand Driven by Electrifying Energy and Transportation

Copper is the third-most-consumed industrial metal in the world behind iron and aluminium. The majority of copper production, about three-quarters, is used by the electrical industries to make electrical wires, telecommunication cables, and electronics. Copper is only second to silver when it comes to thermal and electrical conductivity. The rest is mostly used to form alloys by combining it with other metals. Some of these common alloys are brasses, bronzes, and nickel silvers.

Challenges to Increase Supply

  • Unearthed copper deposits are locked up in remote and difficult locations
  • Opposition to new mines
  • New mines lower ore % and deeper
  • New copper mines will likely be located in politically and ecologically sensitive areas

Copper Production

Copper production has increased from 15 million tonnes in 2000 to 25 million tonnes by 2020, and Chile accounts for a quarter of reserves.

Country2018 (Metric Tons) 2017
DR Congo1,239,0591,094,638
United States1,220,0001,260,000
Other 44 countries3,090,400 of the total 20m tonnes
Data from

The amount of copper in an ore can vary from 0.4% to 2% although there are some as high as 12%. Porphyry copper deposits, in which the copper materials are more or less uniformly scattered throughout the rock, account for the greatest tonnage of metal in the producing areas of the world.

Industry Dominated by 12 Companies in 4 Countries

Is The Supply Shortage Real?

The Copper Alliance has a range of discussion papers.

  • Global copper reserves are estimated at 830 million tonnes (US Geological Survey [USGS], 2019)
  • Annual copper demand is 28 million tonnes. 
  • Since 1950 an average of 40 years of copper deposits and over 200 years of resources have been available, including reserves, discovered and potentially profitable deposits and undiscovered deposits predicted based on preliminary geological surveys.
  • Copper resources total 5,000 million tonnes (USGS, 2014 & 2017).
  • In addition to the known deposits, it should be mentioned that 35 percent of the demand is covered by recycled copper, which significantly reduces the need for mined copper.

The data is clear. There is enough copper to meet current and future demand – also taking into account the expected demand for copper in the coming years. IDTechEx research predicts the volume of copper needed for car components will rise to 6 million tonnes per annum by 2040, increasing 143% from 2020 levels. Given that annual demand is about 28m tonnes, then, there appears to be no constraint.

From IDTechEx report in Innovation Networks
Use of Copper in EV vehicels.