Water, the Achilles heel of essential metals for the energy transition

This is the promise of the energy transition: a sustainable world, free of carbon and pollution. Switching from fossil fuels to renewable energies is not without its drawbacks, however. This requires a colossal quantity of metals, the extraction of which is far from neutral for the environment and requires in particular a high consumption of water. According to a report by the International Energy Agency, the consumption of metals by the energy sector will have to be multiplied by 6 to achieve carbon neutrality in 2050.

It takes copper to transport electricity, but also lithium, cobalt, manganese or nickel to store it in batteries, and finally rare earths, in particular to manufacture certain engines. The size and content of metal deposits are not the only physical limits to the energy transition: the water needs to extract and process the ore will also explode and the lack of this resource could well weigh on the supply of metals.

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