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Is green hydrogen Africa’s answer to the global climate crisis?

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Whereas the prospects are thrilling for the continent, governments and corporations should be certain that the native populations get entry to the choice vitality sources.

Discussions about local weather disaster have usually portrayed – and rightly – the African continent solely as a sufferer and even an harmless bystander, significantly because it contributes below 4 % of world greenhouse fuel emissions. 

But, because the world scrambles to seek out new sources of cleaner vitality, it’s getting tougher to disregard Africa’s phenomenal potential in aiding the local weather disaster and delivering cleaner vitality.

From photo voltaic vitality from the Sahara Desert to huge onshore wind ranges, Africa has a lot potential to transform this into inexperienced hydrogen, with local weather researchers going so far as arguing it’s the key to producing cleaner vitality.

On the similar time, there are pitfalls over whether or not African international locations can absolutely utilise this vitality potential to profit their very own populations and whether or not improvement initiatives may very well be ‘extractivist’ in nature.

Case for inexperienced hydrogen

Inexperienced hydrogen has been tipped as a brand new renewable vitality that may resolve the local weather disaster attributable to its cheapness, ease of storage and lack of polluting gasses. It may be tipped to switch coal, oil and fuel in all their makes use of, with double the manufacturing for vehicles than diesel whereas solely releasing water vapour. 

Hydrogen is probably the most considerable component within the universe and is already used for varied functions resembling gas for vehicles, treating metals, producing fertiliser and processing meals.

On Earth, it requires vitality to separate because it doesn’t seem pure in nature. So, to totally extract hydrogen in its purest type, it requires the method of electrolysis, which sends a robust electrical present by a tank of water (H2O) and splits the molecule into its two components (hydrogen and oxygen).

If the electrical energy comes from renewable sources resembling photo voltaic or wind, hydrogen manufacturing by electrolysis creates no greenhouse gasses, making inexperienced hydrogen renewable. And given Africa’s abundance of photo voltaic and wind vitality, the continent has the right pure potential to create inexperienced hydrogen.

Certainly, the Worldwide Power Company (IEA) mentioned in its Africa Energy Outlook 2022 report that Africa’s wealthy renewable assets are essential for unlocking this potential. Attributable to this potential, the continent can produce 5,000 megatonnes of hydrogen per yr at lower than $2 per kilogramme, which is equal to the world’s complete vitality provide, the report acknowledged.

The IEA’s report additionally mentioned that by 2030, Africa might produce 80 % of its required vitality from photo voltaic, wind, hydropower and different renewable energies.

Continental developments

Numerous initiatives to supply and ultimately export inexperienced hydrogen are already underway this decade. South Africa is tipped to be one of many continent’s leaders in inexperienced hydrogen vitality attributable to its glorious photo voltaic, wind and valuable metals assets. In February 2022, South Africa announced a pipeline of various green hydrogen initiatives valued at round $17.8 billion till 2030.

On November 27, the nation hosted a inexperienced hydrogen summit in Cape City, during which President Cyril Ramaphosa hosted a number of world leaders, ambassadors and excessive commissioners. Ramaphosa stated that “South Africa is set to turn into a world chief in inexperienced hydrogen”. On the similar time, he cited estimates that the nation has the potential to “produce 6 to 13 million tons of inexperienced hydrogen and derivatives a yr by 2050”.

His announcement got here after South African petrochemical large Sasol and steelmaker ArcelorMittal introduced exploration initiatives for inexperienced hydrogen in October, together with a hydrogen manufacturing hub in Saldanha Bay and extraction from the North Cape area. In September, Sasol additionally announced a partnership with Japanese firm Itochu to discover green hydrogen export initiatives and provide chains within the nation, with the latter pledging to offer grants for such initiatives.

The nation can be aiming to provide European markets. In January 2022, it signed a memorandum of agreement, below which the Port of Rotterdam will act as a “demand aggregator for inexperienced hydrogen in Europe”. Different European international locations like Germany have eyed cooperation with South Africa on this house.

Investments would undoubtedly be vital, as South Africa said it can want round $250 billion by 2050 to satisfy its long-term hydrogen manufacturing targets.

Different international locations, together with Egypt, Nigeria and Kenya, are additionally at totally different phases of constructing initiatives, which goal to return into place over the subsequent decade. In 2021, Namibia and Botswana additionally signed a memorandum of intent with USAID to construct a mega photo voltaic plant to supply inexperienced hydrogen.

North African international locations additionally search to harness their supreme photo voltaic vitality capabilities by the African continent.

Throughout COP27 in November 2022, the United Arab Emirates vitality firm Masdar acknowledged in a report that Africa might seize as much as 10 % of the worldwide inexperienced hydrogen market by 2050. 

It significantly gave credit score to Morocco, stating that the North African nation is anticipated to supply inexperienced hydrogen at lower than $2 per kilogram in 2030 and fewer than $1 per kilogram in 2050. As well as, the report mentioned Morocco’s inexperienced hydrogen trade might create almost 4 million further jobs and add $60-120 billion to the continent’s GDP by 2050 – a substantial feat, contemplating the nation’s GDP in 2021 was simply over $132 billion.

Whereas Rabat established its first inexperienced hydrogen manufacturing system in September 2022, the Worldwide Renewable Power Company (IRENA) printed a report stating that Morocco is forecast to have the third most cost-effective inexperienced hydrogen manufacturing in 2050.

British TuNur has pledged to invest $1.5 billion in an influence plant in Tunisia, which is able to goal to offer the nation the aptitude to export photo voltaic vitality. It’s an enormous funding contemplating the nation’s GDP at present quantities to round $40 billion. Like Morocco, Tunisia has announced its personal inexperienced hydrogen technique in 2022, which it will goal to ahead by 2024.

Mauritania has partnered with the multinational firm Chariot Power to give attention to Venture Nour, which goals to capitalise on Mauritania’s world-class entry to wind and photo voltaic energies, to make the nation one in every of Africa’s most cost-effective world exporters of inexperienced hydrogen.

Pitfalls to contemplate

These are a number of of many thrilling initiatives occurring throughout Africa. Whereas there are issues over different elements, resembling forms particularly governments, which might stall initiatives, the investments themselves could not goal to profit the native populations.

In some international locations, electrical energy entry charges are sometimes very low, with 24 international locations having beneath 50 % entry. Thus, governments and buyers want to enhance home infrastructure to make sure that individuals throughout the continent can absolutely profit from these vitality shifts.

Furthermore, it’s nonetheless within the early phases of improvement, because the IEA famous, Africa has 60 per cent of the world’s best solar resources however just one per cent of present photo voltaic era capability.

Pipelines are at present geared toward exporting pure fuel from West and North Africa to Europe, significantly as Algeria is a provider of pure fuel – a fossil gas. Nevertheless, the pipelines would have to be repurposed and may very well be used to move hydrogen.

Crucially, some observers have raised issues over some initiatives primarily being ‘extractivism’ in nature, that means Africa’s native assets might goal to profit world markets outdoors of the continent on the expense of native populations. Furthermore, substantial debt may very well be incurred by African governments due to among the funding initiatives.

There are actually positives, however whereas funding is clearly important, actors ought to be certain that broader infrastructure developments are made to make sure that odd civilians may also profit, particularly given the extra complete local weather vulnerability of the continent. 

If achieved ethically, it might see the worldwide and African economies changing into extra intertwined, and it might positively contribute to the continent’s financial development.

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors don’t essentially mirror the opinions, viewpoints and editorial insurance policies of TRT World.

We welcome all pitches and submissions to TRT World Opinion – please ship them through e mail, to opinion.editorial@trtworld.com

Supply: TRT World

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