Green Hydrogen Economy is a Technology Game-Changer for SA and Sub-Saharan Africa
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By Stanley Semelane

Hydrogen can be deployed for various applications across the energy sector, for instance , electricity generation, cell electric vehicles and storage systems. At this stage it can be considered as a possible game-changer on how energy technologies might be deployed in South Africa and also broader Sub-Saharan Africa .

Sub-Saharan Africa is endowed with renewable energy resources like wind, solar, biomass and hydropower. I have previously highlighted the variable nature of renewable energy technology and therefore the costs related to storage as a serious barrier to accelerating the adoption of renewables. Furthermore, a couple of weeks ago I indicated that there’s a requirement to spice up investor confidence as we write a replacement chapter within the South African renewable energy sector.

only for this they are trying to regain what a South African just energy transition future should resemble. Which energy technologies can advance the objectives of a coffee carbon economy and decarbonisation? Can we have a decarbonised future which will be dependent only on the energy technologies encircled in the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP)? What role can green hydrogen play within the just energy transition?

Many have recognised hydrogen as a major enabler for accelerating the decarbonisation point. Now they have achieved the Paris Agreement objectives. Does this mean we are likely to ascertain green hydrogen investments forming a part of the energy transition future?

 Hydrogen has been proved as a technical technology energy source which existed for many years. The renewable energy resources available in South Africa ,and the minerals petrochemical industry that exists, provide a singular value proposition for advancing the hydrogen economy.

Now the question arises: Is South Africa or sub-Saharan Africa ready for the hydrogen economy development? Do we have the specified skills to advance a rapid hydrogen economy during a “just” manner? A hydrogen economy and jobs study conducted within the US shows an enormous potential for green hydrogen-related sector employment opportunities. However, from the studies South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa might not be ready to fast-track the hydrogen economy.

Critics of the South African renewable energy sector have always argued that the majority of the coal value chain sector jobs would get replaced by freely available resources (wind and sun). Also a bigger share of renewable energy employment is considered under the construction phase.It onl constructs for 15 to 24 months per project.  Many countries have committed that they are considering the adoption of hydrogen, however, South Africa is one of the few countries in sub-Saharan Africa that is doing research for hydrogen economy development.

The major concern of hydrogen is its “durability”. It is a key factor. The durability targets for stationary and transportation fuel cells. As Studies conducted the are estimated to be 40,000 and 5,000 hours, respectively, under unfailing operating conditions. This combined with electric vehicles that might be enabled mainly by distributed solar PV charging infrastructure provides a paradigm shift in how the energy sector will still transition.

 South Africa does not produce hydrogen components or consider hydrogen material except for research purposes. Nevertheless, internationally, interest in hydrogen implementation as an accelerator for the decarbonisation agenda continues to realize momentum.

What do these inevitable energy transition developments mean for those hooked into the coal economy? Are our institutions of upper learning ready and already preparing graduates who will provide skills needed within the green hydrogen economy?

The renewable energy resources available in South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa resolutely position the continent as a potentially major role player in green hydrogen development. As such, increasing the green hydrogen benefits throughout the worth chain will promote just energy transition and inclusivity.

This is an area that urgently needs attention as it has the potential to contribute to the most-needed energy diversification options that will ensure South Africa reduces its carbon emissions while sustainable development is stimulated. The country’s just energy transition should be all about inclusivity and ensuring that environmental sustainability and social equity are achieved.

Source: Daily maverick and All Africa news

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