Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Dr Blade Nzimande
Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Dr Blade Nzimande has highlighted the country’s determination to develop a hydrogen economy, for a low carbon-emissions future. He did so at the recent meeting of the International Partnership for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in the Economy (IPHE) steering committee, in Pretoria.
The IPHE is an intergovernmental organisation with 22 members, which share information to encourage research and development into hydrogen and fuel cell technologies, and their actual deployment, around the world. South Africa currently chairs the steering committee.
The Minister highlighted the country’s Hydrogen South Africa (HySA) programme and its Hydrogen Society Roadmap. HySA sought to exploit South Africa’s comparative advantage in hosting 75% of global platinum group metals reserves by locally developing hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. HySA had enabled the use of fuel cells as the primary power source for field hospitals deployed during the Covid-19 pandemic, to handle patients infected with the disease.
“The South African government is investing in the development and application of scientific knowledge domains that are critical for our national development and global competitiveness,” affirmed Nzimande. “The approval of the Hydrogen Society Roadmap and the extension of the HySA programme for another ten years by the Cabinet is a clear demonstration of the South African government’s commitment to the hydrogen economy.”
The country had, the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) pointed out, a number of programmes under way to promote domestic hydrogen demand. These included transport decarbonisation, and the hydrogen and platinum valley, initiatives, as well as the CoalCO2-X project. CoalCO2-X seeks to capture flue gas from coal-fired boilers and use hydrogen to turn the flue gas elements into sulphuric acid, fertiliser and other value-added products.
The government is also actively working to increase the supply of trained people with the skills necessary to implement, operate and maintain the hydrogen economy. HySA started, a decade ago, to support MSc and PhD students working in the relevant scientific and engineering fields. In September 2020, the DSI and the Department of Higher Education and Training started a training programme for technical and vocational education training college graduates with N4 diplomas in engineering or who were qualified light and heavy current electricians, to equip them to deploy, install and maintain hydrogen fuel cells.