Energy transition toward renewables and metal depletion: an approach through the EROI concept
More and more attention is being paid to renewable technologies because there are seen as a great opportunity to disengage our society from its dependence on fossil fuels. Such flowbased energy resources that rely on solar energy, are supposed to lead us toward a sustainable energy future. However, because of their high capital intensity, renewable technologies require large amounts of matter, among which common and rare metals. These metals require energy for their production, and more specifically for their extraction. The energy cost associated to metal extraction is linked to mineral ore grade, meaning that as depletion progresses, energy cost increases. On the other hand, renewable energy resources deliver less net energy to society compare to fossil fuels, because of their diffuse nature. It is therefore easy to see that a close relationship exists between energy and metals sectors. In this article, we tried to more precisely describe this relationship by investigating how the energy requirement associated to metal extraction could impact the energy-returnoninvestment (EROI) of different renewable technologies. We found that if only copper is considered, because it is the only metal with sufficient data for a deep analysis, the EROI of renewable technologies is not really affected. However, if other metals are considered in an extreme scenario in which they are all extracted from common rocks, the EROI of renewable technologies could be gravely altered.
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Charles A. S. Hall & Stephen Balogh & David J.R. Murphy, 2009. "What is the Minimum EROI that a Sustainable Society Must Have?," Energies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 2(1), pages 1-23, January.
- David I. Stern and Astrid Kander, 2012.
"The Role of Energy in the Industrial Revolution and Modern Economic Growth,"
The Energy Journal,
International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 3).
- David I. Stern & Astrid Kander, 2011. "The Role of Energy in the Industrial Revolution and Modern Economic Growth," CAMA Working Papers 2011-01, Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.
- Gagnon, Luc & Belanger, Camille & Uchiyama, Yohji, 2002. "Life-cycle assessment of electricity generation options: The status of research in year 2001," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 30(14), pages 1267-1278, November.
- Brandt, Adam R. & Dale, Michael & Barnhart, Charles J., 2013. "Calculating systems-scale energy efficiency and net energy returns: A bottom-up matrix-based approach," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 235-247.
- Kleijn, René & van der Voet, Ester & Kramer, Gert Jan & van Oers, Lauran & van der Giesen, Coen, 2011. "Metal requirements of low-carbon power generation," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 36(9), pages 5640-5648.
- Adam R. Brandt & Michael Dale, 2011. "A General Mathematical Framework for Calculating Systems-Scale Efficiency of Energy Extraction and Conversion: Energy Return on Investment (EROI) and Other Energy Return Ratios," Energies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 4(8), pages 1-35, August.
- Kubiszewski, Ida & Cleveland, Cutler J. & Endres, Peter K., 2010. "Meta-analysis of net energy return for wind power systems," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 218-225.
- Messner, Frank, 2002. "Material substitution and path dependence: empirical evidence on the substitution of copper for aluminum," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(1-2), pages 259-271, August.
- Steen, Bengt & Borg, Gunnar, 2002. "An estimation of the cost of sustainable production of metal concentrates from the earth's crust," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(3), pages 401-413, September.
- Heun, Matthew Kuperus & de Wit, Martin, 2012. "Energy return on (energy) invested (EROI), oil prices, and energy transitions," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 147-158.
- Moss, R.L. & Tzimas, E. & Kara, H. & Willis, P. & Kooroshy, J., 2013. "The potential risks from metals bottlenecks to the deployment of Strategic Energy Technologies," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 556-564.
- Ruth, Matthias, 1995. "Information, order and knowledge in economic and ecological systems: implications for material and energy use," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 99-114, May.
- Harmsen, J.H.M. & Roes, A.L. & Patel, M.K., 2013. "The impact of copper scarcity on the efficiency of 2050 global renewable energy scenarios," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 62-73.
- Cleveland, Cutler J., 2005. "Net energy from the extraction of oil and gas in the United States," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 769-782.
- Yang, Chi-Jen, 2009. "An impending platinum crisis and its implications for the future of the automobile," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(5), pages 1805-1808, May.
- Lund, P.D., 2007. "Upfront resource requirements for large-scale exploitation schemes of new renewable technologies," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 442-458.
- Pihl, Erik & Kushnir, Duncan & Sandén, Björn & Johnsson, Filip, 2012. "Material constraints for concentrating solar thermal power," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 44(1), pages 944-954.
- Adam R. Brandt, 2011. "Oil Depletion and the Energy Efficiency of Oil Production: The Case of California," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 3(10), pages 1-22, October.
- Ayres, Robert U., 2007. "On the practical limits to substitution," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 115-128, February.
- Hall, Charles A.S. & Lambert, Jessica G. & Balogh, Stephen B., 2014. "EROI of different fuels and the implications for society," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 141-152.
- Raugei, Marco & Fullana-i-Palmer, Pere & Fthenakis, Vasilis, 2012. "The energy return on energy investment (EROI) of photovoltaics: Methodology and comparisons with fossil fuel life cycles," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 576-582.
- Ayres, Robert & Voudouris, Vlasios, 2014. "The economic growth enigma: Capital, labour and useful energy?," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 16-28.
- Mudd, Gavin M., 2010. "The Environmental sustainability of mining in Australia: key mega-trends and looming constraints," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 98-115, June.
- Ayres, Robert U., 1999. "The second law, the fourth law, recycling and limits to growth," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 473-483, June.
- Goeller, H E & Weinberg, Alvin M, 1978. "The Age of Substitutability," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(6), pages 1-11, December.
- Crowson, Phillip, 2012. "Some observations on copper yields and ore grades," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 59-72.
- Craig, Paul P., 2001. "Energy limits on recycling," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 373-384, March.
- Megan C. Guilford & Charles A.S. Hall & Peter O’Connor & Cutler J. Cleveland, 2011. "A New Long Term Assessment of Energy Return on Investment (EROI) for U.S. Oil and Gas Discovery and Production," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 3(10), pages 1-22, October. Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cec:wpaper:1407. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Chaire Economie du Climat)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.