(Bloomberg) — Silver, already at a six-year high amid rising haven demand and tight supply, may be poised for a big additional boost from a less-well-known driver: measures to stem global warming.
The metal used in solar panels stands to gain as governments looking to jump-start economic growth and slow climate change pour more money into clean-energy technologies, according to analysts including those at BMO Capital Markets. That idea got a lift when Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Joe Biden outlined plans last week for a “carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035” — a move that would require rapid acceleration in the deployment of renewable wind and solar power as well as electricity storage.
“It is this push into solar photovoltaics that is crucial for future silver demand,” Colin Hamilton, managing director for commodities research at BMO Capital Markets, said in a note. “More than $50 billion of green stimulus has been approved by governments thus far this year. But perhaps more impactful has been the recent Biden campaign clean energy plan.”
Silver’s use in photovoltaics grew by 7% in 2019 and is forecast to improve as governments continue their commitment to generating electricity from renewable energy sources, including solar, according to the Silver Institute, an industry trade group.
Futures jumped above $20 for the first time since 2016 on Monday, surging by more than two-thirds from a low in March as the coronavirus fueled demand for precious metals as insurance against economic turmoil. Mine-production concerns and bets on a rebound in industrial demand are giving silver additional momentum, helping make it the best performer in the Bloomberg Commodity Index in the past month. On Tuesday, futures advanced as much as 7.1% on the Comex in New York to the highest since mid-2014.
Widening use of solar power as envisioned in Biden’s plan could as much as double silver’s price, Peter Thomas, a senior vice president at Chicago-based broker Zaner Group, said in an interview Friday, when the metal settled at $19.764.
Biden, now running ahead in polls for November’s vote, might have the opportunity to make good on his energy ideas. Still, Zaner’s Thomas said the campaign plans lack enough detail to significantly affect market pricing anytime soon. Biden’s goal is an outline at this point, and may not come to fruition even if he is elected. And the pandemic has stalled or completely halted some projects expected this year, Matthew Watson, founder and president of Precious Metals Commodity Management LLC in California, said in a telephone interview.
“There’s a delayed effect that’s going to occur in the immediate term, so it’s certainly not solar PV that’s generating this climb that we’ve seen in June and July in silver,” he said.
But even without stimulus, solar has already been gaining market share from fossil fuels, and this process is now likely to be accelerated, BMO’s Hamilton said.
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