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Another just energy transition drive hits high spots in form of Just Green AfrH2ica

Another just energy transition initiative has come flying out of its starting blocks in the form of Just Green AfrH2ica.

Just Green AfrH2ica discussion underway.

9th March 2023

By: Martin Creamer

Creamer Media Editor

     

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JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Yet another just energy transition initiative has come flying out of its starting blocks in the form of Just Green AfrH2ica, the promoter of the just energy transition to green hydrogen in Africa, the continent with the distinctive potential to benefit exponentially from low-cost renewable energy to produce green hydrogen as well as its derivatives such as green ammonia.

“This can be done for both domestic and external markets,” Hydrogen Infrastructure: Department of Science and Innovation National Centre of Competence director Professor Dmitri Bessarabov tells Mining Weekly in highlighting Just Green AfrH2ica’s superb opportunity to cross-fertilise African Union (AU) and European Union (EU) policies and development roadmaps.

Far-reaching discussions took place in Brussels last month aimed at helping to unlock funding, expertise, technology, policy and regulation to unleash AU/EU cooperation.

“Green hydrogen could indeed become the booster of a sustainable development of the continent, enabling African countries to reduce their environmental impact,” adds Bessarabov, who functions from South Africa’s North-West University, which is investing around R35-million in strategic funding to advance green hydrogen research over the next five years.

Hydrogen technologies have a special meaning for South Africa as most of the platinum group metals (PGMs) that are needed for the related hydrogen technologies, such as water electrolysis and fuel cells, are mined in South Africa.

Moreover, South Africa offers excellent sources of renewable energy, with electrolytic green hydrogen generation also being one of the cornerstones of the activities mentioned in South Africa’s Hydrogen Society Roadmap.

African green hydrogen development as a continental whole could be outstandingly helpful for European hydrogen transition, which is why it is so important that both EU and AU hydrogen policies and development roadmaps are conceived in a cross-fertilising manner.

The latest Just Green AfrH2ica initiative comes amid the battle against climate change being emphasised more strongly than ever as a global responsibility.

Decarbonisation at the fastest possible rate is essential, given that the world is on a trajectory to reach 2.7 °C of warming above pre-industrial levels, which is a long way mathematically from the 1.5 °C that is required by the Paris Agreement.

Africa has a growing population of nearly 1.3-billion, with an average annual increase rate of 2.5% for the last ten years.

The growing population of the continent directly implies growing demand for energy and expanded infrastructure to match the growth. The overall sustainable development of Africa and indeed the global effort to reduce climate degradation will stem from a holistic energy system driven by renewable energy and requiring joint efforts and partnership across borders to find feasible climate-friendly solutions, Bessarabov points out.

“In this sense, Just Green AfrH2ica will put together AU/EU experiences to explore the potential of green hydrogen as a key energy vector and energy option in a joint effort to make AU/EU cooperation sustainable at both environmental and social levels,” he adds.

South Africa’s mining companies alone are at the ready to provide 10 GW of renewable solar and wind power, with London- and Johannesburg-listed Anglo American prepared to do up to 5 GW on its own.

Anglo American already has its huge green hydrogen haulage truck doing its paces at the Mogalawena PGMs mine in South Africa’s Limpopo province. The large mining group is also working with partners including Bambili Energy, Sasol and TotalEnergies, to create the country’s first hydrogen corridor, with a focus on trucks and buses that use hydrogen.

Bambili Energy CEO Zanele Mbatha believes South Africa will have fuel cell trucks on the road by 2024, 2025, and Anglo American Platinum CEO Natascha Viljoen has pointed out that South Africa’s proposed hydrogen corridor will create 14 000 new jobs.

The Johannesburg- and New York-listed Sasol, as one of the largest producers of grey hydrogen in the world, has a strategic advantage in that it can use its existing assets in Secunda and Sasolburg to produce green hydrogen, Sasol hydrogen programme management head Rilet Davison points out.

Green hydrogen is generated by renewable energy, or from low-carbon power. Green hydrogen has significantly lower carbon emissions than grey hydrogen, which is produced by steam reforming of natural gas, which currently makes up the bulk of the hydrogen market.

One of the projects Sasol is targeting is to convert its Sasolburg operation to green hydrogen in a number of ways and it has announced its collaboration with ArcelorMittal South Africa from a green steel manufacturing and application point of view.

Sasol’s first green hydrogen production is scheduled towards the end of 2023, with the output from its green hydrogen electrolyser being used in demonstration projects to incubate local demand and supply, and to supply the green hydrogen to offtakers.

The transition to green hydrogen can be a hugely beneficial reality in the near future with collaboration between companies, countries and knowledge institutions, South Africa’s Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande has told a just energy transition event attended by European Commission Joint Research Centre director- general Stephen Quest, UK high commissioner Antony Phillipson and representatives of neighbouring African States.

In the past, geopolitics was such that oil-rich and gas-endowed countries developed faster, but now countries that are able to export their sunshine in the form of hydrogen will be the ones to develop faster, as the world transitions to clean, green energy.

Just Green AfrH2ica, meanwhile, aims to develop a green hydrogen just transition roadmap to make AU/EU transition pathways to green hydrogen synergistic, sustainable and inclusive in promoting a mutual benefit collaboration of the two continents towards the development of independent and collaborative hydrogen economies, research and development ecosystems, and value chains.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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