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.
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.
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.
- 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].