Understanding Zinc’s Role in a Low-Carbon Economy
When asked to describe how the metal zinc is used, people often mention vitamins, sunscreen, or metal coating.
But few are aware of zinc’s applications in transportation, infrastructure, electronics, food security, and renewable energy.
This graphic by Teck shows how zinc is playing a key role in the low carbon economy.
Zinc, the Versatile Metal
Zinc is one of the most versatile and essential materials known to mankind. It is the fourth most used metal in the world behind iron, aluminum, and copper.
The primary use of zinc is in the galvanizing process, which protects iron and steel from rusting. Zinc coatings play a key role in public transportation and infrastructure by extending the life of steel used in bridge rails and support beams, railway tracks, and public transportation hubs and terminals.
Additionally, zinc can be alloyed with other metals and used for die-casting into shapes such as door handles, alloyed with copper to make brass, and alloyed with copper and sometimes other metals to make some types of bronze, like architectural bronze or commercial bronze.
Furthermore, zinc also has applications in energy storage. Zinc-carbon batteries were the first commercial dry batteries, providing a higher energy density at a lower cost than previously available cells.
Due to its growing role in energy storage and its superior ability to protect metals against corrosion, zinc remains an essential material for the future.
Zinc in the Energy Transition
Zinc-ion batteries are considered safer than lithium-ion as they use a water-based chemistry, avoiding the fire problem that occurs with Li-ion batteries in electric vehicle (EV) battery packs.
Galvanized steel requires zinc and is the preferred material used by EV manufacturers for car bodies. The average EV requires 0.2 tonnes of steel.
Zinc is 100% recyclable—it can be recovered and reused without a loss in quality. Currently, 30% of all zinc produced worldwide originates from recycled or secondary zinc.
The metal plays a critical role in enabling other green technologies too, like solar and wind. Zinc coatings protect solar panels and wind turbines and prevent rust. A 10MWh offshore wind turbine requires 4 tonnes of zinc, while a 100MWh solar panel park—enough to supply 110,000 homes—requires 240 tonnes of zinc.
Zinc is a $40 billion per year market. Different from other metals, zinc is naturally abundant and resources are available to meet future demand for many generations.
As the world transitions to a low-carbon economy, zinc will continue to play a key role in supporting clean energy technologies.
As one of the world’s largest producers of mined zinc, Teck is committed to responsible mining and delivering the metals necessary for a low-carbon future.
Ranked: Emissions per Capita of the Top 30 U.S. Investor-Owned Utilities
Roughly 25% of all GHG emissions come from electricity production. See how the top 30 IOUs rank by emissions per capita.
Emissions per Capita of the Top 30 U.S. Investor-Owned Utilities
Approximately 25% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) come from electricity generation.
Subsequently, this means investor-owned utilities (IOUs) will have a crucial role to play around carbon reduction initiatives. This is particularly true for the top 30 IOUs, where almost 75% of utility customers get their electricity from.
This infographic from the National Public Utilities Council ranks the largest IOUs by emissions per capita. By accounting for the varying customer bases they serve, we get a more accurate look at their green energy practices. Here’s how they line up.
Per Capita Rankings
The emissions per capita rankings for the top 30 investor-owned utilities have large disparities from one another.
Totals range from a high of 25.8 tons of CO2 per customer annually to a low of 0.5 tons.
|Utility||Emissions Per Capita (CO2 tons per year)||Total Emissions (M)|
|Berkshire Hathaway Energy||14.0||57.2|
|American Electric Power||9.2||50.9|
|Florida Power and Light||8.0||41.0|
|Portland General Electric||7.6||6.9|
|Pacific Gas and Electric||0.5||2.6|
|Next Era Energy Resources||0||1.1|
PNM Resources data is from 2019, all other data is as of 2020
Let’s start by looking at the higher scoring IOUs.
TransAlta emits 25.8 tons of CO2 emissions per customer, the largest of any utility on a per capita basis. Altogether, the company’s 630,000 customers emit 16.3 million metric tons. On a recent earnings call, its management discussed clear intent to phase out coal and grow their renewables mix by doubling their renewables fleet. And so far it appears they’ve been making good on their promise, having shut down the Canadian Highvale coal mine recently.
Vistra had the highest total emissions at 97 million tons of CO2 per year and is almost exclusively a coal and gas generator. However, the company announced plans for 60% reductions in CO2 emissions by 2030 and is striving to be carbon neutral by 2050. As the highest total emitter, this transition would make a noticeable impact on total utility emissions if successful.
Currently, based on their 4.3 million customers, Vistra sees per capita emissions of 22.4 tons a year. The utility is a key electricity provider for Texas, ad here’s how their electricity mix compares to that of the state as a whole:
|Energy Source||Vistra||State of Texas|
Despite their ambitious green energy pledges, for now only 1% of Vistra’s electricity comes from renewables compared to 24% for Texas, where wind energy is prospering.
Based on those scores, the average customer from some of the highest emitting utility groups emit about the same as a customer from each of the bottom seven, who clearly have greener energy practices. Let’s take a closer look at emissions for some of the bottom scoring entities.
Utilities With The Greenest Energy Practices
Groups with the lowest carbon emission scores are in many ways leaders on the path towards a greener future.
Exelon emits only 3.8 tons of CO2 emissions per capita annually and is one of the top clean power generators across the Americas. In the last decade they’ve reduced their GHG emissions by 18 million metric tons, and have recently teamed up with the state of Illinois through the Clean Energy Jobs Act. Through this, Exelon will receive $700 million in subsidies as it phases out coal and gas plants to meet 2030 and 2045 targets.
Consolidated Edison serves nearly 4 million customers with a large chunk coming from New York state. Altogether, they emit 1.6 tons of CO2 emissions per capita from their electricity generation.
The utility group is making notable strides towards a sustainable future by expanding its renewable projects and testing higher capacity limits. In addition, they are often praised for their financial management and carry the title of dividend aristocrat, having increased their dividend for 47 years and counting. In fact, this is the longest out of any utility company in the S&P 500.
A Sustainable Tomorrow
Altogether, utilities will have a pivotal role to play in decarbonization efforts. This is particularly true for the top 30 U.S. IOUs, who collectively serve 60 million Americans, or one-fifth of the U.S. population.
Ultimately, this means a unique moment for utilities is emerging. As the transition toward cleaner energy continues and various groups push to achieve their goals, all eyes will be on utilities to deliver.
The National Public Utilities Council is the go-to resource to learn how utilities can lead in the path towards decarbonization.
The Road to Decarbonization: How Asphalt is Affecting the Planet
The U.S. alone generates ∼12 million tons of asphalt shingles tear-off waste and installation scrap every year and more than 90% of it is dumped into landfills.
The Road to Decarbonization: How Asphalt is Affecting the Planet
Asphalt, also known as bitumen, has various applications in the modern economy, with annual demand reaching 110 million tons globally.
Until the 20th century, natural asphalt made from decomposed plants accounted for the majority of asphalt production. Today, most asphalt is refined from crude oil.
This graphic, sponsored by Northstar Clean Technologies, shows how new technologies to reuse and recycle asphalt can help protect the environment.
The Impact of Climate Change
Pollution from vehicles is expected to decline as electric vehicles replace internal combustion engines.
But pollution from asphalt could actually increase in the next decades because of rising temperatures in some parts of the Earth. When subjected to extreme temperatures, asphalt releases harmful greenhouse gases (GHG) into the atmosphere.
|Emissions from Road Construction (Source)||CO2 equivalent (%)|
|Excavators and Haulers||16%|
Asphalt paved surfaces and roofs make up approximately 45% and 20% of surfaces in U.S. cities, respectively. Furthermore, 75% of single-family detached homes in Canada and the U.S. have asphalt shingles on their roofs.
Reducing the Environmental Impact of Asphalt
Similar to roads, asphalt shingles have oil as the primary component, which is especially harmful to the environment.
Shingles do not decompose or biodegrade. The U.S. alone generates ∼12 million tons of asphalt shingles tear-off waste and installation scrap every year and more than 90% of it is dumped into landfills, the equivalent of 20 million barrels of oil.
But most of it can be reused, rather than taking up valuable landfill space.
Using technology, the primary components in shingles can be repurposed into liquid asphalt, aggregate, and fiber, for use in road construction, embankments, and new shingles.
Providing the construction industry with clean, sustainable processing solutions is also a big business opportunity. Canada alone is a $1.3 billion market for recovering and reprocessing shingles.
Northstar Clean Technologies is the only public company that repurposes 99% of asphalt shingles components that otherwise go to landfills.
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