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Other publication (non peer-review)

Book Student Thesis: Social-LCA of NRP70: Subprojects PEC hydrogen production and PEM fuel cell
Publisher ZHAW, Winterthur


The Swiss government is searching for answers for its future strategy “Energy Strategy 2050” and therefore launched a research program NRP70 of which one part is “renewable fuels for electricity production”. Within the “renewable fuels for electricity production” project one goal is to develop a social compatibility assessment method and finally conduct a social life cycle analysis to provide guidance for decision-making. The specific subprojects of interest are production of hydrogen by direct water splitting with a photoelectrochemical cell and the use of hydrogen as fuel for proton exchange membrane fuel cells. A method has been developed using the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) “Guidelines for social life cycle assessment of products” from 2009 as a framework, which itself is based on the environmental life cycle assessment standard ISO14044. Additional to the general guidance of UNEP the prioritization of data collection with a hotspot analysis over a database and specific performance reference point analysis have been worked out. The method has been developed and used as a hotspot assessment on the technologies photoelectrochemical cell and proton exchange fuel cell as the development state was per November 2015. As the processes from mining the raw material until production of the products show high exposure to hazardous substances and hard working conditions it has been decided to conduct a hotspot assessment on child labor. The outcome was that only few countries still have big child labor issues in mining, especially for bulk materials. Clear evidence on child labor was found on mining copper in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia, mining gold in Burkina Faso, Ghana and Peru and last but not least mining zinc in Bolivia. Nevertheless, in all countries are also possibilities to get legally mined materials. The hotspot assessment only shows materials that have a higher chance of being produced by child labor and need higher attention later in the supply chain. Because of a missing scenario how the hydrogen manufacturing and infrastructure would look like it was not possible to check the impact during the use phase in Switzerland.