All Roads Lead to Net Zero, Not Just the Easy Ones


In May, the International Energy Agency published a report that details the pathway to net-zero emissions in the global energy system. The IEA was born of an oil crisis and its long-term mandate has been the security of the energy supply, to include enough fossil fuel to run the power, transport, and industrial processes of developed economies. It’s a redefinition of a guiding principle for the global energy system—from securing adequate supply to minimizing, or even zeroing out, the impacts of demand. To learn more, read All Roads Lead to Net Zero, Not Just the Easy Ones.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • Aluminum is one of the world’s most ubiquitous metals, used in everything from consumer goods to electronics to infrastructure.
    • Producing it is energy-intensive, and at the moment, more than two-thirds of its energy consumption comes from coal and natural gas.
    • Aluminum is responsible for about 4% of industrial emissions and 1% of all global emissions.
  • Alcoa, Rio Tinto, Apple, the government of Canada, and the provincial government of Quebec have invested in a developing process that uses inert anodes—which don’t produce CO₂—and zero-carbon power to drive emissions to zero.
  • BNEF ran the numbers and the production costs with this method could be lower than with traditional methods—and significantly lower than with processes that use carbon offsets to cancel out their CO₂ emissions.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Clean energy investments around the world have been growing at more than $300 billion annually over the course of the past five years. McKinsey’s Global Energy Perspective 2019 predicts that by 2035, renewable energy generation will account for 50% of the world’s total generation. That, in turn, is expected to substantially increase the demand for several metals such as copper, aluminium, bauxite, iron, lead, graphite, tin, nickel and zinc which are used to produce renewable energy.

Stockpiles of various metals, to include aluminum, are deplenishing, while the time to find new reserves is increasing. This could lead to a situation where the production of metals will not be able to keep up with increasing demand. The Rocky Mountain Institute’s Renewable Resources at Mines tracker, estimates there are 57 mines across 21 countries with a total installed renewable energy capacity of 1178 MW.


Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash