As delegates to the UN COP26 Climate Change conference in Glasgow grapple with finding solutions to the climate crisis, clean energy solutions will be in focus. Although clean energy technologies rely on metals and minerals that are unavoidably energy intensive to produce, the IEA says that the climate advantages of these technologies remain clear.
Nickel-based alloys and nickel-containing stainless are playing key roles in an emerging source of renewable energy known as thermal solar plants or concentrated solar power (CSP). Their use has enabled the industry to overcome challenges in heat transfer and thermal storage technology.
A new generation of designers, materials specifiers, architects and engineers is being introduced to the wealth of technical information curated by the Nickel Institute. An archive of technical guides and know-how for working with nickel-containing materials, including stainless steel, that has been built over thirty years is now being updated and made freely available.
The short answer is: yes, nickel can be a sustainable material throughout the entire value chain, from mining, manufacturing, to use and end of life – if all actors throughout the value chain step up and take their responsibility. Now let's look at the longer answer...
European nickel producers need a consistent regulatory framework. There must be coherence between different EU policy objectives with rules based on principles of sound science, risk-based approaches, full life-cycle thinking and impact assessments.
Should we be worried about there being enough nickel to supply the transition to electric vehicles and cleaner energy sources? Given its wide range of uses in important existing and emerging technologies, this is a frequently asked question.