The broad electrification scenario of recent photovoltaics roadmaps predicts that by 2050 we will need more than 60 TW of photovoltaics installed and must be producing up to 4.5 TW of additional capacity each year if we are to rapidly reduce emissions to ‘net zero’ and limit global warming to <2 °C. Given that at the end of 2020, just over 700 GW peak was installed, this represents an enormous manufacturing task that will create a demand for a variety of minerals. We predict that growth to 60 TW of photovoltaics could require up to 486 Mt of aluminium by 2050. A key concern for this large aluminium demand is its large global warming potential. We show that it will be critical to maximize the use of secondary aluminium and rapidly decarbonize the electricity grid within 10 years if cumulative emissions are to be kept below 1,000 Mt of CO2 equivalent by 2050.
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Data used for the modelling are available in Supplementary Dataset 1.
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This work has been supported by the Australian Research Council (ARC) through the Future Fellowship FT170100447 (awarded to A.L.) and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) research grant number 2017/RND002. We also acknowledge funding support from the Australian Centre of Advanced Photovoltaics (ACAP), which is funded by ARENA. J. Buchan (UNSW, Sydney, Australia) and C. Preston (University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia) are thanked for proof reading the manuscript.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Lennon, A., Lunardi, M., Hallam, B. et al. The aluminium demand risk of terawatt photovoltaics for net zero emissions by 2050. Nat Sustain 5, 357–363 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-021-00838-9
Nature Sustainability (2022)