Clever people have always known that Net Zero is a fantasy, but now a European government agrees with them.
A 1,000 page report on 'alternative energy' investigation for the Finnish Government by Associate Professor Simon Michaux. Referring to the U.K.’s 2050 Net Zero target, Michaux states there is “simply not enough time, nor resources to do this by the current target”.
To cite just one example of how un-costed Net Zero is, Michaux notes that “in theory” there are enough global reserves of nickel and lithium if they are exclusively used to produce batteries for electric vehicles. But there is not enough cobalt, and more will need to be discovered. It gets much worse. All the new batteries have a useful working life of only 8-10 years, so replacements will need to be regularly produced. “This is unlikely to be practical, which suggests the whole EV battery solution may need to be re-thought and a new solution is developed that is not so mineral intensive,” he says.
But Professor Michaux is by no means the first to point out that there aren't enough precious metals to make all the batteries and solar panels the world would need for Net Zero. Not even close. Lithium is in short supply but cobalt also essential for batteries is a very rare commodity. around 70% of the entire reserves of Cobalt comes from just one mine in the Congo, and even at best estimates, there's still nowhere near enough to enable the world to go electric.
The report states problems occur in finding a mass of lithium for ion batteries weighting 286.6 million tonnes. But a “power buffer” of another 2.5 billion tonnes of batteries is also required to provide a four-week back-up for intermittent wind and solar electricity power. Of course, this is simply not available from global mineral reserves, and, states Michaux, it is not clear how the buffer could be delivered with an alternative system.
Michaux sounds a clear warning message. Current expectations are that global industrial businesses will replace a complex industrial energy ecosystem that took more than a century to build. It was built with the support of the highest calorifically dense source of energy the world has ever known (oil), in cheap abundant quantities, with easily available credit and seemingly unlimited mineral resources. The replacement, he notes, needs to be done when there is comparatively very expensive energy, a fragile finance system saturated in debt and not enough minerals. Most challenging of all, it has to be done within a few decades. Based on his copious calculations, the author is of the opinion that it will not go fully “as planned”.
Michaux points out that nearly 85% of world energy comes from fossil fuel. By his calculations, the annual global capacity of non-fossil electrical power will need to quadruple to 37,670.6 TWh. In a recent report for the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), Professor Michael Kelly estimates that the U.K. electricity grid would have to expand by 2.7 times. This will involve adding capacity at eight times the rate it has been added over the last 30 years. If calculations are made for the need to rewire homes, streets, local substations and power-lines to carry the new capacity, the extra cost will be nearly £1 trillion.
One Trillion Pounds Britain can ill afford to pay on anything, let alone a fantasy.