LONDON, Aug 1 (Reuters) - An expansion in wind power projects in Europe is helping to boost demand for copper, providing a bright spot for the metal used in power and construction at a time of tepid consumption in the region, research consultant Wood Mackenzie said on Wednesday.
The company expects copper use in wind turbines to rise 15 percent between 2013 and 2015, against an estimated 12 percent rise in wind capacity installation in Western Europe over the same period.
Wind power generation in Europe has been booming for years, helped by government subsidies and European Union (EU) legislation that aim to reduce the amount of fossil fuel used in power generation.
In contrast, European demand for copper has been soft as the region grapples with a prolonged debt crisis and weak economic growth, with a slowdown in the global economy adding pressure to the outlook for metal prices.
Copper is used in wind turbine installations and for sub-sea cables that transfer power back to the grid.
“We see this (wind turbine market) as a bright spot for copper demand, especially in Europe,” Wood Mackenzie analyst Ian Littlewood said.
“For Europe we are expecting a contraction in overall copper demand of around 5 percent this year, so to have a growth market like this is very positive.”
The research company said that wind turbines use 3.6 tonnes of copper per megawatt and estimates that 22,000 tonnes of copper will be consumed in wind turbines installed in Western Europe in 2012, out of a total consumption forecast of around 4 million tonnes.
Helping to push growth in renewable energy, EU legislation has set mandatory targets for European countries to generate 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020.
In Germany, Europe’s biggest economy and power user, renewable electricity generation accounts for 25 percent of energy production, according to the country’s energy industry association, with wind energy the largest contributor of green power.
Britain, the Nordic region and Spain are also expanding their wind power capacity, with the focus on offshore wind parks. (Additional reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by David Goodman)