JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – In terms of high-level outcomes, the vision of South Africa’s Hydrogen Society Roadmap is to create an inclusive, sustainable and competitive hydrogen economy to support net-zero carbon economic growth and societal well-being, Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) chief director hydrogen and energy Dr Rebecca Maserumule said on Wednesday.
In an address to the North West Provincial Mining and Energy Investment Conference, Maserumule outlined the roles being played by several government departments and direct engagement with close to 50 organisations on the subject of the Hydrogen Society Roadmap, which the DSI is leading.(Also watch attached Creamer Media video.)
Maserumule spoke of the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) doing work on ‘just energy transition’ and contributing to the Hydrogen Society Roadmap.
She emphasised, at the conference covered by Mining Weekly, how the hydrogen economy can benefit South Africans.
The purpose of Wednesday’s discussion, she said, was to look at what is taking place in the hydrogen economy, and its ability to create jobs, impact youth and benefit North West, which is responsible for 45% of global platinum group metals (PGMs) that play key roles in hydrogen’s generation and use.
She highlighted how South Africa not only had one of the world’s best solar resources, and prime wind resources boosted by a three-sided ocean coastline, but was also endowed with 75% of the world’s PGMs that are so closely linked to going green.
What is more, policies were being developed by South Africa to ensure that this happens.
“Our journey started more than 15 years ago when the Cabinet at that point in time decided to pursue the hydrogen economy. This tells you that policy is a very important thing. It leads and guides us in the right direction,” Maserumule told the conference.
She recalled how 15 years ago, South Africa’s leadership initiated a programme of action to generate PGMs-linked wealth for South Africans.
“The national hydrogen strategy was to develop the necessary skills for a hydrogen economy in South Africa, which has been successfully achieved,” she affirmed.
Subsequently, the Department of Transport had developed the green transport strategy that opens the way for hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles to play a decarbonising role.
More recently, the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) had come to the party with its green commercialisation strategy, and the DMRE with its ‘just energy transition’ and contribution to the DSI-championed hydrogen society roadmap.
Maserumule highlighted the roadmap’s societal well-being as equating to jobs, industrial development and, more importantly, cross-country economic growth that would not be centred in areas like Gauteng, the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, but also in Limpopo and Northern Cape, with the North West leading the charge in the movement towards a hydrogen economy.
Engagements have taken place with close to 50 organisations, beginning with State-owned enterprises such as Eskom, Transnet and the Central Energy Fund, and extending to government departments such as the DMRE, Defence, Transport, Public Works; numerous private sector companies, including Anglo American, Sasol, Engie, Mitochondria, and the women-led Bambili Energy; and civil society organisations taking in the National Youth Development Agency and other youth industry associations.
“The youth are going to be front and centre of this transition,” she emphasised. “And I would say we had a roundtable, so no one’s view was more important than others – and that was really important because in most cases you find that certain voices are muted in the discussions, and that out of that, as a country, these are our priorities.
“The first priority is decarbonising transport, with a focus on roads, in part because road is responsible for 98% of emissions. So, we didn’t look at rail or shipping, but we focused on road, and the Department of Transport will lead that transition, and that process, supported by other departments,” Maserumule said.
The second outcome is the decarbonisation of energy-intensive industries, such as mining and cement, which is being led by the DTIC, supported by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment.
The third outcome is the creation of an export market for green hydrogen produced in South Africa, which is also DTIC-led, supported by National Treasury and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation.
The fourth outcome is looking to the use of hydrogen and fuel cells in the power sector, to stabilise the electricity grid, and in buildings.
“The reality is that renewables are intermittent, and you really can’t necessarily swop a renewable power plant with a coal-fired power plant, or even nuclear, because nuclear is essentially the only clean baseload. But you can actually use your green hydrogen to give a flexible load for your renewables,” Maserumule said
The fifth outcome is an aspiration for jobs in manufacturing, using knowledge and intellectual property South Africa has developed over the last 13 years.
“And DFI is responsible for ensuring that there’s going to be a centre of excellence in manufacturing fuel cells across the country for the export market,” she added.