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Looming Copper Squeeze May Force Market to Seek a Recycling Fix

  • BNEF report predicts a shortfall of 14 million tons by 2040
  • Investing in new technologies could help bring supply online
Pieces of copper cable and pipework at a scrap and metals recycling yard in Paris, France.

Pieces of copper cable and pipework at a scrap and metals recycling yard in Paris, France.

Photographer: Nathan Laine/Bloomberg

The world may have to rely on new recycling technologies to prevent shortages of copper as the shift toward clean energy supercharges demand for the wiring metal, according to a new report by BloombergNEF.

Annual copper demand is set to expand 53% to 2040, mainly driven by the electrification of transport and infrastructure, BNEF analysts including Sung Choi wrote in the report released Tuesday. In the same span, BNEF’s base case has supply up just 16% amid a dearth of new mines, leaving a shortfall of 14 million metric tons by 2040. Even in a best-case scenario, a shortage of more than 5 million tons is possible. (See chart below).