Africa-Europe collaboration aligns with the shared interests of both continents to harness green hydrogen for a sustainable, low-carbon energy future.
- South Africa and Mauritania are trailblazers across the continent in harnessing green hydrogen to keep the lights on in their respective industries.
- However, access to adequate finance and a skilled labour force are some of the top challenges facing the industry.
The vast renewable energy potential across the African continent, combined with Europe’s ambitious production and import targets, is reshaping energy pathways and challenging established norms. Moreover, Africa and Europe have taken the reins in driving the global green hydrogen economy, marking a landmark shift in energy dynamics.
Africa’s renewable energy potential has long been recognized. However, the emergence of green hydrogen as a key player in the global energy transition is igniting a transformative wave. This Africa-Europe collaboration syncs with the shared interests of both continents to harness green hydrogen’s potential for a sustainable, low-carbon energy future.
Hydrogen is expected to play a crucial role in Europe’s goals to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 55 per cent by 2030. The European region has a broader ambition of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
Africa and Europe unleashing green hydrogen revolution
In line with this transformation, African Energy Week 2023, the African Energy Chamber’s (AEC) premier energy event, featured a dedicated Hydrogen Summit under the theme ‘Powering the Future: Africa and Europe Unleashing the Green Hydrogen Revolution.’
The session, which was moderated by Ashutosh Singh, Director of Financial Services at S&P Global Commodity Insights, delved into the far-reaching implications of this transformative shift.
Participants engaged in discussions about the joint efforts of both continents to accelerate the adoption of green hydrogen. They explored how to leverage green hydrogen to plug the energy deficit while reducing carbon emissions.
The discussion opened with a keynote address by Kgosientsho Ramakgopa, Minister in the Presidency responsible for Electricity, in South Africa. Ramakgopa highlighted the critical role of green hydrogen in South Africa’s energy strategy.
For South Africa, green hydrogen is not only a clean energy source but a means to foster regional cooperation. What’s more, it helps enhance energy security, while creating economic opportunities for millions of South Africans.
Speakers agreed that collaboration between Africa and Europe in advancing the green hydrogen sector promises to shape the global energy landscape and pave the way for a more sustainable future.
“By 2040, Africa could produce 50 times more energy from renewables than the world’s estimated demand,” Ramakgopa remarked.
South Africa’s green hydrogen ambitions
Speaking about South Africa’s ambitions, Ramakgopa says, “We are looking at $1 per kg by 2050. This is equivalent to indigenous low-cost energy, making South Africa one of the competitive industrial economies.”
According to Ramakgopa, South Africa acknowledges green hydrogen as a pivotal component of its equitable energy transition. As a result, the government has enacted regulatory reforms and established the Hydrogen Society Roadmap. This strategy is a comprehensive framework within the industry to streamline planned investment initiatives.
“The intention of this kind of strategy is to ensure that we are able to develop the kind of standard required for green hydrogen in the future,” said Ramakgopa.
Mauritania’s Aman hydrogen megaproject
In West Africa, Mauritania is making significant strides in the realm of sustainable energy with the launch of several green hydrogen projects. Take the $40 billion Aman hydrogen megaproject, for instance. Aman project seeks to harness renewable energy resources such as solar and wind power to produce green hydrogen.
Additionally, Mauritania is driving forward the 10GW Nour Electrolyzer project, which focuses on developing electrolysis technology. Electrolysis technology is a key component in the production of green hydrogen.
Furthermore, the Masdar-Infinity-Conjuncta green hydrogen project underscores Mauritania’s dedication to fostering international collaboration. Through these ventures, Mauritania is not only striving to secure a sustainable energy future but also positioning itself as a regional and global leader in green hydrogen production.
“We have big potential in renewable energy and green hydrogen is available,” explained Nani Chrougha, Minister of Petroleum, Mines, and Energy, Mauritania.
Africa’s role in the burgeoning green hydrogen economy
The green hydrogen projects in Mauritania are indicative of a broader trend in the African energy landscape. Countries are increasingly recognising the potential of green hydrogen as a clean and renewable energy source.
As the continent unites to develop green hydrogen projects, economies are paving the way for a greener, more sustainable future. What’s more, they are contributing to the global transition to cleaner energy alternatives.
With the continued growth of such projects, Africa is poised to become a major player in the burgeoning green hydrogen economy. These initiatives not only address Africa’s own energy needs but also the global demand for cleaner, sustainable energy sources.
“We are working on the legal framework, which will help to see investments into these resources. We want to put the investors in a position that makes them comfortable investing,” Nani Chrougha continued.
With green hydrogen in demand, Africa can benefit from cutting-edge research and technological advancements in hydrogen production. This will allow the continent to harness green hydrogen’s potential more effectively to drive economic growth.
Challenges facing the green hydrogen economy
While there is a need for Africa to adopt technologies for green hydrogen and learn from European nations’ success stories, Minister Ramakgopa stated, “We are not the recipients of technologies. We also have the capacity to develop it.”
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The panel deliberated on the necessity of building the essential infrastructure to sustain Africa’s green hydrogen supply chain. Interestingly, the panel lifted the veil on various challenges and opportunities arising as green hydrogen evolves.
Mauritania’s Chrougha said, “We need to access financing to access our important resources, and this will be an investment in infrastructure and in the mining sector. We need to develop capacity in the mining sector, and these are two challenges.”
Developing a skilled workforce is equally essential for advancing the production and usage of green hydrogen. “For African countries, it is very vital to build local capacity. This is a technology that we have not been working on in a long time. So, it is extremely important that governments and institutions start to work on building capacity across the entire value chain,” said, Solomon Nwabueze Agbo. Agbo is a Scientist and Project Coordinator at Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH.
What makes hydrogen particularly attractive is its environmentally friendly profile. It neither emits CO2 nor significantly contributes to air pollution when employed as an energy source.
Hydrogen to decarbonise energy-intensive sectors
By promoting the use of clean hydrogen, which is produced using renewable or low-carbon energy sources, Africa and Europe can effectively drive the decarbonization of energy-intensive sectors such as steel, chemicals, and cement. The two regions can also bring about cleaner practices in the transportation sector, which encompasses heavy-duty vehicles, railways, maritime transport, and even the power sector.
Most importantly, for Africa to drive investment in green hydrogen, the continent can draw inspiration from Europe’s success stories. As such, the continent rolling out supportive policies and fostering international collaboration. This way Africa can attract the investments necessary for a thriving green hydrogen industry.
“For us to get to the point of $2 per kilo, we need to get everyone around the table, including off-takers and financiers,” stated Chinnan Maclean Dikwal, Vice Chair, Board of Directors, African Energy Council.
He added that for nations that haven’t had the resources for green hydrogen development, it necessitates strategic collaborations. Partnerships are likely to play a significant role.