Visualizing the Global Demand for Lithium
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Visualizing the Global Demand for Lithium

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The following content is sponsored by Scotch Creek Ventures.

Visualizing the Global Demand for Lithium

Visualizing Global Demand for Lithium

Lithium is one of the most in-demand commodities in the world today.

With the ongoing shift to electric vehicles (EVs) and clean energy technologies, governments and EV manufacturers are rushing to secure their supply chains as demand for lithium soars.

But while China has a strong foothold in the lithium race, the U.S. is lagging behind. This infographic from our sponsor Scotch Creek Ventures highlights the rising demand for lithium and the need for a domestic supply chain in the United States.

What’s Driving the Demand for Lithium?

Global lithium production more than doubled in the last four years to 82,000 metric tons in 2020, up from 38,000 metric tons in 2016. Here are some of the factors driving the lithium rush:

  1. More EVs on the Road:
    EV sales have been accelerating in recent years. Between 2016 and 2020, annual electric car sales increased by 297%, up from around 750,000 to nearly 2.9 million cars last year.
  2. Falling Battery Prices:
    Declining lithium-ion battery prices are allowing EVs to compete more aggressively with gas-powered cars. Since 2013, battery costs have fallen 80% with a volume-weighted average of $137/kWh in 2020.
  3. Rise of the Battery Megafactories:
    More battery manufacturing capacity means more demand for the critical minerals that go into batteries. As of March 2021, there were 200 battery megafactories in the pipeline to 2030, and 122 of those were already operational. According to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, if all 200 battery megafactories were operating at full capacity, their annual demand for lithium would be 3 million tonnes. That’s almost 37 times the 82,000 tonnes produced in 2020.

Although the demand for lithium is rising globally, its supply chain from mines to batteries relies on a only few critical nations.

China’s Lithium Dominance

In 2020, Australia, Chile, and China collectively made up 88% of global lithium production. After mining, the lithium supply chain involves refining, processing, and packaging the lithium into batteries—and the majority of this occurs in China.

In 2019, China produced 80% of the world’s refined battery chemicals, in addition to 73% of lithium-ion battery cells. What’s more, of the 200 battery megafactories in the pipeline to 2030, 148 are in China. As a result, China is far ahead of other countries in the race for lithium and batteries.

On the other hand, the U.S. is heavily reliant on imports for its supply of lithium, with only one lithium-producing mine in the country. As demand increases, this lack of production could threaten U.S. energy independence in the future. To address this and gaps in the supply of other critical minerals, U.S. President Biden also signed an executive order aiming to build secure supply chains for strategic minerals.

But where is lithium in the United States?

Nevada: The Lithium State

Nevada is known as the Silver State for its rich history of silver mining. Today, it’s the only source of lithium production in the U.S.

Clayton Valley and Kings Valley, two of the country’s largest lithium deposits, are in Nevada. The country’s only producing mine, Albemarle’s Silver Peak Mine, produces around 5,000 tonnes of lithium every year in Clayton Valley. Furthermore, the region is among the world’s richest closed-basin brine deposits based on grade and tonnage.

In addition to a rich lithium deposit, mining companies in Clayton Valley can also reap the advantages of Nevada as a jurisdiction. These include access to infrastructure, a skilled mining workforce, and proximity to a battery manufacturing base with Tesla Gigafactory 1. But that’s not all—in 2020, the Fraser Institute gave Nevada the top spot for mining investment attractiveness globally.

Meeting Lithium Demand for Energy Independence

As countries work to expand EV adoption, critical battery metals like lithium are becoming geopolitically significant, and their supply could redefine energy independence going forward. For this reason, the U.S., EU, and Canada all have lithium on their list of minerals that are critical to national security.

The U.S. needs to build a domestic lithium supply chain from the ground up, and Nevada has the potential to support it with lithium in Clayton Valley. Scotch Creek Ventures is developing two lithium mining projects in Clayton Valley to supply lithium for the green future.

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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.

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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.

UtilityEmissions Per Capita (CO2 tons per year)Total Emissions (M)
TransAlta25.816.3
Vistra22.497.0
OGE Energy21.518.2
AES Corporation19.849.9
Southern Company18.077.8
Evergy14.623.6
Alliant Energy14.414.1
DTE Energy14.229.0
Berkshire Hathaway Energy14.057.2
Entergy13.840.5
WEC Energy13.522.2
Ameren12.831.6
Duke Energy12.096.6
Xcel Energy11.943.3
Dominion Energy11.037.8
Emera11.016.6
PNM Resources10.55.6
PPL Corporation10.428.7
American Electric Power9.250.9
Consumers Energy8.716.1
NRG Energy8.229.8
Florida Power and Light8.041.0
Portland General Electric7.66.9
Fortis Inc.6.112.6
Avangrid5.111.6
PSEG3.99.0
Exelon3.834.0
Consolidated Edison1.66.3
Pacific Gas and Electric0.52.6
Next Era Energy Resources01.1

PNM Resources data is from 2019, all other data is as of 2020

Let’s start by looking at the higher scoring IOUs.

TransAlta

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

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 SourceVistraState of Texas
Gas63%52%
Coal29%15%
Nuclear6%9%
Renewables1%24%
Oil1%0%

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

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

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 serve millions of Americans.

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.

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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.

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Road to Decarbonization - How Asphalt is Affecting the Planet

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 (%)
Asphalt 28%
Concrete18%
Excavators and Haulers16%
Trucks13%
Crushing Plant 10%
Galvanized Steel 6%
Reinforced Steel6%
Plastic Piping 2%
Geotextile1%

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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