Hydrogen needs to grow sevenfold to support global energy transition, report says

A report by Hydrogen Council, a global CEO-led initiative that brings together companies with a united vision, suggests that hydrogen needs to grow sevenfold to support the global energy transition, eventually accounting for 10% of total energy consumption by 2050.

The report, named Sufficiency, sustainability, and circularity of critical materials for clean hydrogen, is a joint product of the World Bank and the Hydrogen Council and examines critical points of that suggested hydrogen deployment.

It points out that a scale-up of that magnitude will increase demand for materials such as aluminium, copper, iridium, nickel, platinum, vanadium, and zinc to support hydrogen technologies, including renewable electricity technologies and the electrolyzers for renewable hydrogen, carbon storage for low-carbon hydrogen, or fuel cells using hydrogen to power transport.

It also says that an analysis of the impact of that material intensity is vital to deploying hydrogen sustainably, at scale, for various reasons.

It explains that the analysis 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 and highlights the need to consider the wider environmental challenges, moreover the impacts on greenhouse gas emissions or stresses to the water supply that may arise from mining and processing the materials.

The report also indicates that 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 sectors of the low-carbon transition such as wind, solar, and battery technologies.

It estimates the number of critical minerals needed to scale clean hydrogen by using new data on the material intensities of key technologies and shows how incorporating sustainable practices and policies for mining and processing materials can help minimise environmental impacts.

In addition, it indicates that the key is the use of recycled materials, innovations in design in order to reduce material intensities, and the adoption of policies from the Climate-Smart Mining (CSM) Framework to reduce impacts on greenhouse gas emissions and water footprint.

Even so, Hydrogen Council points out that further research needs to be done to have a more complete picture of the material impacts of hydrogen along its value chain, including crucial aspects such as transportation, storage, and distribution.

Earlier, in its Hydrogen Insights 2022 report, the council pointed out the urgency to ramp up investments in hydrogen energy projects.

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