Author: By Hydrogen Council
Date Published: 14 December 2022
Photo Cred: World Bank Group
Sufficiency, Sustainability, and Circularity of Critical Materials for Clean Hydrogen
Our estimates suggest that hydrogen needs to grow seven-fold to support the global energy transition, eventually accounting for 10 percent of total energy consumption by 2050. A scale up of this magnitude will increase demand for materials, such as aluminum, copper, iridium, nickel, platinum, vanadium and zinc, to support hydrogen technologies – renewable electricity technologies and the electrolyzers for renewable hydrogen, carbon storage for low-carbon hydrogen, or fuel cells using hydrogen to power transport.
An analysis of the impact of this material intensity is vital to deploying hydrogen sustainably, at scale. First, it can help identify bottlenecks in the supply of a critical material that could create challenges for the entire hydrogen sector or a specific technological component. Second, it highlights the need to consider the wider environmental challenges—impacts on greenhouse gas emissions or stresses to water supply—that may arise from mining and processing the materials. And last, while the material footprint of the hydrogen economy is low, it’s worth assessing whether materials needed for hydrogen may be competing with large-scale demand from other – and fast-growing – sectors of the low-carbon transition, such as wind, solar, and battery technologies.
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