The possible supply shortfalls with gas are a concern for the German copper industry: as an energy-intensive sector, it is dependent on a reliable and sustainable energy supply. After all, this is the only way to ensure that production capacities can be maintained. A reduction in volume would ultimately also have an impact on consumer products and capital goods. In addition, copper is an important material for the mobility and energy transition.
“As the most important technology and functional metal, copper is of great socio-economic importance,” says Michael Sander, Managing Director of the Kupferverband. “Copper materials are not only found in numerous applications in everyday life, such as in smartphones or computers, but are also important components of industrial products. The domestic copper industry is also of correspondingly great and steadily growing importance here.”
Safeguarding manufacturing processes
For example, the German copper industry recorded production growth of six percent in 2021. Almost 20,000 people are employed in production and initial processing alone, in addition to thousands of employees in manufacturing and further processing as well as in their supplier companies.
An insufficient gas supply is also problematic from a technical point of view: during the production of semi-finished products and products made of copper materials, these go through numerous thermal processes in order to optimally adjust the product properties within narrow tolerances according to customer specifications. Sander explains: “In many cases, the start-up and shut-down of the plants in the production process cannot be realised at once and requires a corresponding lead time.”
Energy transition threatened?
Copper materials also play a special role in the implementation of the European Green Deal or in the energy and mobility transition or in the construction sector. Renewable energies are just as dependent on copper as electric cars. If the corresponding primary products and components made of copper materials are missing, not only is the progress of the energy transition itself at risk, but also the supply of the population. Because copper is indispensable due to its excellent electrical and thermal conductivity.
Alexander Dehnelt, Chairman of the Executive Board of the Kupferverband, summarises the situation: “At the moment, we as the copper industry see few opportunities to switch to alternative energy sources in the production process, e.g. of semi-finished copper products, in the short term. Although there are initial approaches, it will take time before this is implemented across the board. In this respect, a reliable gas supply is still the only alternative for the copper industry.”