The Netherlands and Europe have set out a roadmap to meet the Paris climate objectives by the year 2050. It all looks fine on paper. But we need to act consciously on an important element: the availability of critical raw materials. According to calculations by TNO, there will not be enough for the quantities of hydrogen that we are aiming to produce, for example. For the energy transition to be a success, this item needs to be quickly added to the agenda.

Iridium, platinum and cobalt are critical for green hydrogen

Windfarms and solar panels are playing an ever-greater role in the production of electricity. However, this form of energy production is not particularly constant. There will always be times that the wind is not blowing, and in the winter, precisely when the days are short and the sun less powerful, demand for energy among households is greater. In other words, there is a great need to bridge those periods in which the sun and wind fall short. So the fact that surplus renewable energy can be converted into hydrogen via electrolysis is highly beneficial.

Research paper Part 1

Read the in-depth analysis of the critical material scarcity here.

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The role of hydrogen in the energy transition

The great news is that hydrogen made from electricity from renewable sources (in other words, solar and wind energy) does not result in any CO₂ emissions. Moreover, you can use lorries, ships, or pipelines to transport hydrogen to wherever extra energy is needed. It therefore looks as though hydrogen will be playing an important part in the transition to a sustainable energy system.

Critical raw materials needed for electrolysis

The Dutch Climate Agreement includes a separate chapter about hydrogen. A programme has also been launched in the Netherlands for the purpose of making the large-scale use of green hydrogen possible in the future. That will require a very large number of electrolysers. One notable aspect of this is that electrolysers contain scarce and costly materials such as platinum and iridium.

Searching fast for alternatives

According to calculations by TNO, the availability of iridium is set to become a problem in due course. There is simply not enough of it to meet the demand for green hydrogen. This is just one example of how iridium is used, incidentally: it has other applications, so the shortage is actually even more severe. In addition, iridium is not the only scarce resource. In the Netherlands and the rest of Europe, we will quickly have to look for alternative materials and technologies in order to deal with the lack of these scarce materials. In the second paper you will read about 9 technical solutions, of which reduction has the most impact. Through a combination of these solutions we will progress towards a greener future.

Research paper Part 2

Learn about the solutions to the critical material scarcity here.

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  • Want to know more about the analysis of the critical material scarcity problem? Download research paper Part 1.
  • Want to know more about the solutions to the critical material scarcity problem? Download research paper Part 2.

TNO is doing all it can to help realise the energy transition. That involves maintaining close contacts with industry and Dutch and European policymakers. We are also working with parties who can contribute towards solving the problem of critical raw materials. Care to become a research partner? Or care to know more about this subject? Then please contact Ton Bastein: [email protected].

Our work

Scarcity of critical raw materials can frustrate the energy transition

If you decide to build a house, you know that you need raw materials. And you also know that those raw materials will probably be readily available. If you’re going to build a completely new sustainable... Read more
Our work

How to deal with the predicted material scarcity for the energy transition

As you will read in the first part of our publication, it is crucial for policymakers to have material scarcity on their radar. To meet the future European demand for hydrogen, we need larger amounts... Read more

From grey and blue to green hydrogen

Production from water via electrolysis with sustainable electricity from sun and wind is a CO2-free alternative. But for the production of green hydrogen, there are still technological barriers to be... Read more

A sustainable future is the only future

The ambition of the unit Energy Transition is to accelerate the energy transition together with knowledge institutions, companies and the government so that in 2050 the Netherlands will have an energy... Read more

Towards a reliable, affordable and fair energy system after the energy transition

Dutch history is sometimes described as a struggle against the elements, but is actually connected with the elements. And an alliance of Dutch people with each other. Working together, using elements... Read more

Dr. Ton Bastein

  • resource efficiency
  • circular economy
  • raw materials
  • sustainability
  • scarcity