Materials Roadmap Austria
When looking at the so-called "energy system", the focus usually is on technologies that provide energy services, whereas taking into account all the materials and processes for assembling these technologies often is out of scope. So the innovation potential on the one hand, but also constraints on the resource side, cannot be fully considered, substitution options remain almost unassessed.
The Austrian Energy Agency has been appointed by the Federal Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology to investigate this issue and to initiate a dialogue with all relevant stakeholders in Austria. Relevant documents, programs and strategies from Austria and the European Union in the fields of material research, process innovation and resource availability were analyzed.
An in-depth review was undertaken for the following energy technologies:
- bioenergy (power, heat and fuels),
- solar thermal energy,
- heat storage,
- wind power technologies,
- heat pumps,
- fossil fuel power stations and
- electricity grids.
Analysis shows that only a relatively small number of components for energy technologies rely on specific critical raw materials. There could be some shortage with lithium and cobalt in accumulators, because ambitious policies for market deployment do not take fully into account the length of cycles for R&D and innovation for new concepts of accumulators. Except for catalyzers, numerous functional and structural materials can meet the needs of energy technologies at least in theory. Some technology concepts (like in generators) can as a whole be replaced with other technologies. These alternatives can be used to respond to shortages und price developments, but substantial investments in development and also production and manufacturing capacities would have to be made up-front.
Roadmaps should identify components of technologies with their manufacturing technologies and material needs to better assess the role of new materials and processes. This would also help to identify criticalities at an earlier stage. The issue of criticality and ways of extending this concept were discussed at a dedicated workshop in June 2013.
The question whether to align roadmaps to certain technologies or to specific materials was seen as a subordinate issue by experts at a meeting in January 2014. Both approaches show specific advantages as well as disadvantages. A comprehensive strategy process controlling the development of all individual roadmaps and their updates will encompass both dimensions. Based on these strategies and roadmaps, a proactive and efficient participation in European and international programs and policy development can take place.