Bernard Respaut, Chief Executive, European Copper Institute.
2018 saw a busy legislative agenda. The Clean Energy Package—outlining the EU’s energy transition ambitions—confirms copper is the metal of choice to equip wind turbines, solar panels and heat pumps, manufacture emission-free, high-efficiency electric vehicles, store energy and interconnect power grids across the continent. The implementation of this package throughout member states represents a major opportunity for our sector. Indeed, some scenarios indicate that to realise the 2050 ambition of a carbon-neutral economy in Europe, more than 15 million tonnes of additional copper will be cumulatively needed over the period 2018 to 2050. So, we aim to ensure the implementation of the Clean Energy Package occurs with sustained tempo and copper gets its fair share of this opportunity.
The circular economy has also remained on the EU agenda. The copper industry is circular by nature due to copper’s endless recyclability, without loss of properties, which lends it an infinite lifetime. At the same time, to remain competitive in Europe, it has long been essential for industry to optimise energy and material use. We are well positioned: efforts on the part of European industry mean around 50 percent of our copper needs are already met with recycled material. Now, to further advance, a supportive legislative environment that facilitates recycling and reuse is essential.
In June 2018, the European Commission decided to put lead on the list of candidate substances for authorisation, since this metal is categorised by European authorities as a Substance of Very High Concern due to its reprotoxic character. Should the Commission decide to add lead to the authorisation list (“Annex XIV” of REACH) by 2024 or later, the use of lead will no longer be allowed in Europe, unless a company or a group of companies obtains authorisation to use lead or a mixture containing it (i.e. an alloy) for a specific use. This will have major consequences for the copper alloy value chain, including the recycling market. As such, it risks undoing much of what the circular economy seeks to achieve, and ECI is actively engaged on the file to ensure an outcome that is proportionate and workable.