The growing demand for energy is posing major economic, social and political issues for countries around the world
One way countries are tackling these challenges is by supporting the development of technologies to harness renewable energies such as wind power, solar energy, hydropower and biofuels.
These energy sources have the advantage of producing little or no carbon or other greenhouse gas emissions. They also enable countries to reduce their reliance on imported fuels thereby limiting their exposure to fluctuating prices and supplies.
But whether powered by the heat of the sun, the strength of the wind or the force of the waves, efficient and renewable energy systems rely on copper for optimum performance.
Take a wind turbine, more than 100,000 of which have been installed around the world over the last two decades. Each requires hundreds of kilograms of copper in the generator which produces the electricity, in the cables and earthing, which link the turbine to the ground, and the transformer, which injects the electricity into the power grid.
Large amounts of copper are also required in other kinds of renewable technology such as solar panels and hydroelectric power plants.
According to Fernando Nuño at the European Copper Institute, it requires four tonnes of copper to produce one megawatt of renewable energy, compared with just one tonne in a conventional energy plant.
Around 20% of global electricity supply is generated from renewable energy sources1, however demand is expected to increase as these new technologies become more cost effective and can better compete with conventional power sources.
Copper is crucial to the development of these vital renewable energy sources and, as such, will play an increasingly important role in our sustainable future.
1 2011 Key world energy statistics, International Energy Association