Overcoming critical mineral concerns in the green hydrogen era 

critical mineral

Some concerns have arisen about the availability of critical minerals needed for the production of electrolysers

The transition to a sustainable and low-carbon energy future hinges on technologies like green hydrogen, which has gained significant attention as a clean energy carrier with the potential to decarbonize various sectors. Green hydrogen is created by the electrolysis process, which separates water into hydrogen and oxygen using renewable energy sources like solar or wind power.

However, some concerns have arisen about the availability of critical minerals needed for the production of electrolysers, which are essential components of the green hydrogen value chain. Notwithstanding these worries, there are strong arguments that suggest essential mineral shortages won’t scupper the green hydrogen revolution.

A new analysis from the International Institute for Sustainable Development states that key minerals are needed in greater quantities by renewable energy systems than by their fossil fuel-based equivalents. For example, an onshore wind farm needs nine times more mineral resources than a gas-fired plant, while a typical electric automobile needs six times the critical mineral inputs of a conventional car.

critical mineral

Significant amounts of vital minerals, such as cobalt, lithium, graphite, nickel, manganese, and rare earth elements, are needed for batteries, electric vehicles (EVs), solar panels, windfarms, and transmission lines. The control of these vital minerals by a small number of “electrostates,” like to the world’s reliance on “petrostates,” implies that the shift to green energy may bring about new dependencies and energy geopolitics.

Director of the International Energy Agency Fatih Birol states, “Today it is about [reducing dependency on] Russian natural gas, tomorrow it might be around sourcing lithium for the production of batteries”. Although efforts to fulfill obligations under the Paris Agreement have contributed to investments in clean energy, the rise of sustainable energy sources has also led to a misperception regarding energy independence.

It was believed that economies could protect themselves from geopolitical upheavals by installing renewable energy installations that used the abundant wind and sun in their area as feedstock instead of importing hydrocarbons. This was demonstrated by the necessity to quickly cut off Russian fossil fuel supplies following the war in Ukraine or, more generally, to lessen reliance on OPEC-mandated fluctuations in oil prices.

In conclusion, while the green hydrogen revolution and the larger shift to clean energy are concerned about the availability of essential minerals, this need not impede advancement. These difficulties can be lessened by international cooperation, creativity, and strategic planning. In order to guarantee a sustainable and just energy future, the switch to green hydrogen should be handled holistically, taking into account both the advantages for the environment and the ethical procurement of essential minerals.

From Energy Monitor

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