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EU warned over consequences of high electricity prices on non-ferrous sector

'Our industry has been the worst hit by the electricity price crisis,' says Eurometeaux director general Guy Thiran (right).

Non-ferrous metals producers and recyclers in Europe have warned the EU of the danger of continued high electricity prices and a threat to the industrial goals of the Green Deal.

Eurometaux, an umbrella association representing the non-ferrous metals sector, says the situation has already led to temporary closures. ‘We’re deeply concerned that Europe now risks entering a decade of repeating power price spikes and request that the EU and governments deliver a thorough and concrete package of measures to prevent deindustrialisation in strategic industries,’ says a letter signed by Eurometaux director general Guy Thiran and president Mikeal Staffs – who is also ceo of Boliden.

‘After a quadrupling of electricity prices, over half of the EU’s aluminium and zinc smelters are today operating at reduced capacity or have temporarily closed, together with a significant reduction in silicon output. The EU has temporarily lost 650 000 tonnes of primary aluminium capacity, about 30% of its total.’

The letter states that downstream industries are facing higher material costs and Europe’s supply gap has had to be bridged with imports, often with a higher carbon footprint. The members warn that, without stronger action within the EU, there is a real risk of further curtailments. It also suggests that other major energy-intensive sectors will be disincentivised from investing into industrial electrification for their own decarbonisation.

‘Metals including aluminium, copper, nickel, zinc, and silicon are all significantly more electricity-intensive to produce than other materials and are priced globally as commodities,’ Eurometaux points out. ‘This means that our industry has been the worst hit by the electricity price crisis.’

The letter goes on: ‘The EU’s Industrial Strategy recognises that the Green Deal will require metals in higher volumes to supply clean energy value chains such as batteries, electric vehicles, wind turbines, solar panels, and grid infrastructure. Europe must not only retain its existing metals supply base to meet this demand in a sustainable way, but also create positive business conditions for investments into extra refining capacity for energy transition metals.’

Eurometaux says all nine electrolytic zinc smelters in the UK have been heavily affected, including KCM’s Bulgarian smelter (closed) and Nyrstar’s plants in the Netherlands, France and Belgium (production curtailed by up to 50%). Over half of Europe’s aluminium smelters have also been affected, including Europe’s biggest, at Dunkirk in France, which has cut output by 15%.

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