New Techniques for Assessing Critical Raw Material Aspects in Energy and Other Technologies
Martin, Nick; Madrid-López, Cristina; Villalba-Méndez, Gara; Talens-Peiró, Laura
OPEN ACCESS at Environmental Science & Technology (2022) 56, 23, 17236-17245 Transitioning to more sustainable energy technologies is a vital step in the move toward reducing global greenhouse […]
Transitioning to more sustainable energy technologies is a vital step in the move toward reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. However, several physical constraints could hinder the implementation of these technologies, and many of the raw materials required to produce new infrastructure are scarce, nonrenewable, and nonsubstitutable. Various factors relating to material extraction and processing activities may also affect the security and sociopolitical aspects of future supply lines. Here, we introduce methods for quantifying three key indicators relating to raw material supplies for specific production processes: (1) overall supply risk, (2) environmental impacts from sourcing raw materials, and (3) environmental justice threats at sourcing locations. The use of the proposed methods is demonstrated via an exploratory case study examining projected electricity production scenarios within the European Union. Results suggest that renewable sources of electricity─particularly wind, solar, and geothermal technologies─are more likely to exacerbate supply risks and environmental issues than other technologies. Furthermore, projected expansions of wind and solar technologies mean that all three indicators appear likely to rise significantly systemwide by 2050. Ultimately, the methods represent a much-needed first attempt at providing practitioners with simple and robust approaches for integrating factors relating specifically to raw material supply into energy modeling and other applications.