Low-carbon windfarm

7 things the world will need for a low-carbon future

Wind, sun and water – what else do you need to make renewable energy work?



Today, we rely on a lot of things that need at least a little of the metals and minerals we produce.

And some things need a lot.

Take clean energy technologies like wind, solar and batteries: all need large amounts of minerals and metals. In fact, in 2020, the World Bank predicted that global production of minerals such as lithium, graphite and cobalt will need to increase by almost 500% by 2050 to meet the growing demand for renewable energy technologies. An additional three billion tonnes of minerals and metals will be needed for wind, solar and geothermal energy, as well as for energy storage.

Here are 7 minerals and metals you can expect to see more of in a low-carbon world.

Copper tubes
Used in everything from electric vehicles to wind turbines, copper is the best non-precious electricity conductor


A 3-megawatt wind turbine – which is about as tall as the London Eye – contains 4.7 tons of copper, 3 tons of aluminium, 335 tons of steel, 2 tons of rare earths and 1,200 tons of concrete.

1. Copper

Copper is the best non-precious conductor of heat and electricity on the planet. It's found in everything from the electrical wiring in your house to renewable power sources like wind turbines. And because it can help things work more efficiently, copper will play an important part in a more sustainable future. It's used widely in smart technologies and electric cars use about 4 to 6 times more copper than cars with traditional internal combustion engines.

2. Lithium

From electric cars to power grids, in a low-carbon future we'll need more and bigger batteries. That means we'll also need huge amounts of minerals like lithium, which is a primary ingredient in battery technologies. The World Bank estimates global demand for lithium will increase by 965% by 2050 to supply clean energy technologies.

3. Aluminium

Aluminium is light and strong – perfect for energy-efficient transportation. Aluminium-intensive vehicles generate up to 17% lower carbon dioxide equivalent emissions over their life cycle, compared with baseline models. It's also one of the most energy efficient and sustainable construction materials. It's corrosion resistant and long lasting, and aluminium building products generally contain anywhere from 50–85% recycled metal. Aluminium’s light reflecting and insulating properties can also contribute to energy efficiency.

4. Borates

Never heard of borates? You're looking at them right now: They're used in everything from smartphone and computer screens to agricultural fertilisers, which help feed the world's growing population. They're also a vital ingredient in building insulation, which keeps your home warm in winter and cool in summer, helping to reduce your electricity use.

5. Titanium

When it is smelted and processed into metallic form, titanium is light, resilient and corrosion-resistant. It’s used to make seats, valve guides and precision parts, such as synchronisation hubs and assorted mechanical devices. And because it is lightweight, it can also help reduce fuel consumption, letting planes and cars go farther with less impact on our environment. Our titanium dioxide business is working on the development of low-cost metal powders for 3D printing which is used by the aerospace industry, removing the need to cast metal, reducing energy and waste.

6. Scandium

Scandium is the most effective known microalloying element in the world. It can strengthen aluminium, while reducing weight, improving flexibility, and increasing resistance to heat and corrosion. Aircraft have used aluminium-scandium alloys for decades for better fuel economy, manoeuvrability and range. You’ll also find these alloys in solid oxide fuel cells, cars, 3D printing, and sporting equipment like baseball bats, lacrosse sticks and bicycle frames. And best of all – we've found a way to make it by recycling materials that used to be disposed of as waste.

7. Tellurium

Tellurium is one of the rarest elements on Earth. In 2021, just 580 tonnes of tellurium were produced globally, compared to 21 million tonnes of copper. But we’ll need to scale up production, because it’s used in many emerging technologies like cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin-film solar panels – a highly efficient, rapidly manufactured, and lower-cost alternative to conventional silicon-based panels. As an additive, tellurium also improves heat resistance in steel, copper alloys, lead alloys and rubbers. It’s usually found in small, sparse rock deposits, making it difficult to mine at scale, but we’ve discovered a way to extract it from copper waste.

Wind turbine

Reducing our own footprint

It takes a lot of energy to mine and process the minerals and metals the world needs.


We recognise that we have a major carbon footprint, significant Scope 1 and 2 emissions. And we know we must address this with urgency to be part of the solution.


We must switch to renewables at scale and at pace, electrify everything we can, work across our entire value chain and accelerate the development of new technology. And we are starting an internal race that will activate all our people to think differently about energy solutions.

We are investing in new technologies – from zero-carbon aluminium smelting to a new process could offer a solution to reducing carbon emissions in iron and steel making.

Read more

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