These changes will permanently alter the map of our energy economy. But they suffer from one major limiting factor: the mineral inputs are increasingly expensive and increasingly unavailable. Solar and wind require a roughly tenfold increase in the tonnage of mineral inputs compared to a natural gas plant delivering the same amount of energy. Other parts of the electrification of our economy are similarly mineral-intensive; EVs require six times as many mineral inputs as a traditional car.
The green energy transition is, in reality, an electrification transition. Electrification requires hardware, and hardware requires mines. Some of the minerals critical for electrification include copper, nickel, cobalt, lithium, rare earth elements (REE), graphite, and polysilicon. Of these, copper and lithium are the most important.