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Turning Africa into green hydrogen "El Dorado” fast-tracks at COP27

Updated: Nov 20, 2022

Egypt is emerging as a frontrunner in the race to establish Africa’s green hydrogen economy after securing a deal with Norway to build a 100MW plant at Ain Sokhna on the Red Sea –– setting the stage for the widespread rollout of clean hydrogen across the continent.

Seth Onyango, bird story agency

Green hydrogen is now central in Africa’s energy architecture as multilateral backing for the zero-carbon energy carrier intensifies to help turbocharge the continent’s power transition.

Although various green hydrogen projects are underway in Africa, Egypt and Norway’s corporation is seen as a vote of confidence for the industry, which has struggled to attract sufficient funding.

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and the Norwegian counterpart Jonas Gahr Støre launched the project’s first phase on the sidelines of the COP27’s World Leaders Forum in Sharm El-Sheikh.

El- Sisi was upbeat about the project, which will be built in partnership with the Norwegian energy behemoth Scatec, expected to drive sustainable growth in Egypt.

He termed it “a practical model of investment partnership that stimulates sustainable economic development with a focus on the role of the national and foreign private sector besides the government’s role, working side by side in this fruitful sector.”

Scatec has been a significant developer at Egypt’s massive Benban solar park in Upper Egypt’s Aswan, one of the largest solar farms worldwide with an installed capacity of 1.8GW.

As efficient technology drives down the cost of producing green hydrogen, the North African state is working on a strategy to become a net export of clean fuel at the lowest price worldwide.

Turning Africa into green hydrogen "El Dorado” fast-tracks at COP27 [Image source: Unsplash]

The strategy, implemented in cooperation with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Arab Union for Sustainable Development and Environment, seeks to help Egypt contribute eight per cent of the global hydrogen market.

“Green hydrogen has become one of the most important solutions on the way toward a green economy during the coming years. It is an example where developing countries, including Egypt, are taking great steps. However, we still have to face challenges resulting from the tendency of some countries to back local green hydrogen in a way that decreases their production cost,” El-Sisi said.

“This causes an imbalance in the global hydrogen market and contributes to undermining the competitiveness of the green hydrogen produced in developing countries compared to the developed countries.”

Other African states are also slowly gravitating towards leveraging their rich renewable energy base to build green supply chains.

Namibia plans to shell out US$9 billion to build a 5GW green hydrogen project at Tsau/Khaeb National Park and is set to make its maiden hydrogen production in 2026. The first phase will generate 2GW worth of renewable electricity, which will be upscaled to 5GW.

The country is also said to have enormous potential for scaling up a green hydrogen industry, particularly vast unused spaces. High wind speeds in Namibia mean that wind power generation is profitable.

South Africa, on the other hand, boasts 80 per cent of the global platinum group metals (PGMs) reserves that are used for green hydrogen production, giving it leverage.PGMs are used in the electrolysers needed to produce green hydrogen as a fuel, giving the nation an advantage in developing the green hydrogen value chain and being a key supplier in the global hydrogen market.

Meanwhile, talks about the transport of green hydrogen are also taking shape, with states working on shared infrastructure to lower costs.

According to NS Energy, collaboration on shared infrastructure is essential, especially concerning transboundary pipeline transport.

Transporting hydrogen transport by pipeline is more cost-effective (roughly by a factor of ten) than electricity transport by cable.

Typically, pipeline capacities (15-20 GW) are much larger than electricity cable capacities (1-4 GW).

“So instead of transporting bulk electricity, it would be more cost-efficient to transport hydrogen. In addition, hydrogen, like natural gas, can be stored over seasons and can hence serve as a dispatchable source of bulk energy, a distinctive advantage over electricity,” according to NS Energy.

“A trans-national hydrogen gas pipeline system is therefore required, enabling transport of hydrogen from the hydrogen production locations (with good renewable resources) to the demand sites.”

bird story agency


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