Is Green Hydrogen Africa’s Answer to the Climate Crisis?
Soohyun Won – Intern at Art in Tanzania
Environmental programs volunteering and internships with Art in Tanzania
The growth prospects for the continent are strong. However, the national governments and businesses must ensure that indigenous people have access to alternative energy sources.”
Discussions about the climate crisis have often described the continent as a victim and innocent bystander, primarily because it contributes less than 4% to total global greenhouse gas emissions. But as the world strives to find new clean energy sources, it is increasingly difficult to ignore Africa’s phenomenal potential to help the climate crisis and provide clean energy.
From Sahara’s solar energy to vast land wind levels, Africa has much potential to convert its energy resources into green hydrogen, which climate researchers believe is the key to producing cleaner energy. However, there is scepticism about whether African countries can fully exploit this energy potential to benefit their citizens and whether development projects can be essential ‘extractions’.
Green Hydrogen Case
Green hydrogen is attracting attention as a new and renewable energy that can solve the climate crisis due to its low price, ease of storage, and low pollution gas. In addition, it can double car production other than diesel, replacing coal, oil and gas in all applications and releasing only water vapour.
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe and is used for various purposes, such as automobile fuel, metal treatment, fertilizer production, and food processing. However, because it is not an absolute natural resource from Earth, it takes energy to separate it, wherein an electrolysis process is essential to extract the purest form of hydrogen completely. This electrolysis process sends a strong current through the water tank (H2O) and separates the molecules into two elements (hydrogen and oxygen).
The report said that this potential allows the continent to produce 5,000 megatons of hydrogen per year at less than $2 per kilogram, equivalent to the world’s total energy supply. The IEA’s report also said Africa could produce 80 per cent of the energy needed from solar, wind, hydro and other renewable energies by 2030.
African Continental Development
Various projects have been underway to produce and ultimately export green hydrogen over the past decade. As an evident example, Tanzania is expected to become one of the continental leaders of green hydrogen energy due to its excellent solar, wind and precious metal resources.
Furthermore, in 2012, Tanzania announced its climate change strategy, aiming to enable Tanzania to adapt effectively to climate change and participate in global efforts to mitigate climate change while achieving sustainable development. After several revisions, Tanzania will implement various climate change response policies worth $750 million a year by 2030.
Tanzania’s climate change adaptation strategy is widely applied to water resources, coastal and marine environments, forestry, wildlife, agriculture and food security, human health, tourism, energy (water dams), industry, livestock and fisheries, infrastructure, human settlement and land use, and mitigation includes low-emission energy technology, livestock management and food improvement, efficiency in transport, mining, agriculture and waste management.
In February 2022, South Africa announced a pipeline of various green hydrogen initiatives worth approximately $17.8 billion (KRW 22.6 trillion) by 2030. On November 27, Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the African National Congress, hosted the Green Hydrogen Summit in Cape Town, inviting several world leaders, ambassadors and high commissioners. At the meeting, Ramaphosa said, “South Africa is determined to become a global leader in the field of green hydrogen.” At the same time, he estimated, “South Africa has the potential to produce 6 million to 13 million tons of green hydrogen and derivatives every year by 2050.
His announcement came after South African petrochemical giant Sasol and Luxembourg’s world’s largest steelmaker ArcelorMittal announced a project to explore green hydrogen in October, along with extraction from a hydrogen-producing hub and North Cape area in Saldanha Bay. In September of that same year, Sasol worked with the Japanese company Itochu to explore Japan’s green hydrogen export projects and supply chains. The latter promised to subsidize such projects.
The project aims to supply the European market as well. In January 2022, Rotterdam Port signed a memorandum of agreement acting as “the aggregator of demand for green hydrogen in Europe.” Other European countries, such as Germany, therefore noted cooperation with South Africa in this area. The investment will undoubtedly be significant because South Africa has said it will need approximately $250 billion (about 317.125 trillion won) by 2050 to meet its long-term hydrogen production target. Other countries, including Egypt, Nigeria, and Kenya, are also in several stages of building initiatives that will be implemented over the next decade. In 2021, Namibia and Botswana also signed a memorandum of intent with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to build a super-large solar power plant to produce green hydrogen.
Africa’s continental development, coupled with its environmental change response strategy, is expected to create the power to respond sensitively to environmental changes and serve as a springboard for new national growth that can lead to economic growth.