Copper Substitution Remains Low in 2020

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Net substitution stood at 0.95 percent of total global copper use in 2020

New research, commissioned by ICA, revealed that copper continues to offer the best cost-performance combination for many applications – especially where high electrical conductivity, corrosion, or friction resistance is required, or the available space is limited.

For other applications, increasing materials’ costs can motivate new research and development initiatives to use copper more efficiently – miniaturization – or to use alternative materials.

DMM Advisory Group’s research found that net substitution stood at 0.95 percent of total global copper use, a slight rise from 0.83 percent in 2019. This low substitution rate was due to users focusing on COVID-19’s economic impact and relatively low copper material costs.

“Copper substitution may occur when alternative materials offer additional technical benefits, beyond lower material costs, or when they can significantly reduce capital expenses. In 2020, the incentive to substitute was low and, looking back, copper substitution has been low over the past five years,” explains Krisztina Kalman-Schueler, author of the research and Managing Partner at DMM Advisory Group.

China, the largest market for copper, still has the lowest relative net substitution across the world at 0.6 percent of China’s total copper use. The drive for increased energy efficiency in electric motors, more electrical mobility applications, and increased environmental regulations remain advantageous for copper. Undergrounding, laying overhead power lines underground, and HVDC power distribution networks also offer growth potential for copper.

Check out more about copper substitution in 2020, here:

DMM Advisory Group presentation

Press release

Fact Sheet

13 April 2021



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  • Trends Database

Colin Bennett

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