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Hydrogen energy economy for South Africa looking more feasible

The Hydrogen Valley Feasibility Study Report by the Department of Science and Innovations (DSI) and partners has given the project a thumbs up.

Completed in partnership with Anglo American Platinum, clean energy solutions provider Bambili Energy and energy and services company ENGIE, the feasibility study says a hydrogen valley has the potential to create up to 32,000 jobs a year by 2030.

Estimates place the potential gross domestic product (GDP) impact, direct and indirect, of H2 projects in the country at $3,9 billion to $8,8 billion, if the full vision of the hydrogen valley is realised. This project could bring an additional $900 million to $2,000 million in tax revenue into South Africa’s coffers by 2050.

“This revenue could be used to invest in the hydrogen economy and further magnify the positive impact,” the report found.

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Job creation, according to the study, also has the potential to contribute to the “just transition”.

“For example, jobs requiring training the workforce will put male and female workers on equal footing,” reads the report.

According to the DSI, the hydrogen valley will serve as an industrial cluster, bringing various H2 applications in the country together to form an integrated hydrogen ecosystem.

The initiative is also set to play a key role in supporting the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan for South Africa.

National initiative to reduce country’s reliance on imported oil

Delivering his keynote address, the DSI’s Director-General, Dr Phil Mjwara, said the establishment of the H2 zone was an important national initiative.

“The implementation of phase 3 of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan is driven by the core elements of reconstruction and transformation, and this entails building a sustainable, resilient and inclusive economy.”

Mjwara believes that this establishment has great potential to unlock growth and revitalise the industrial sector. In addition, this move will position South Africa to be an exporter of cost-effective green hydrogen to the world.

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“And one of the things that I’m particularly excited about is that it is also important to see this hydrogen valley as a place that will open up training for young people,” said Mjwara.

In other countries, these valleys are used to promote clean emerging technologies and support emissions reduction. Meanwhile, hydrogen and fuel cell technologies offer an alternative source of clean electricity, while hydrogen allows energy to be stored and delivered in usable form.

“Using hydrogen as an energy carrier could potentially reduce South Africa’s dependence on fossil fuels that cause global warming while reducing the country’s reliance on imported oil.”

Mjwara said implementing this complex initiative would not be achievable unless government continues with its ongoing partnerships.

Hydrogen economy to contribute to just energy transition

Natascha Viljoen, CEO of Anglo American’s PGMs business: “The opportunity to create new engines of economic activity through hydrogen has been validated through this feasibility study with our partners”.

As a leading producer of platinum group metals (PGMs), Viljoen said the company has been working towards establishing the right ecosystem to successfully develop, scale up and deploy H2-fuelled solutions. “These include investing in innovative ventures and enabling technologies, as well as forging wide-ranging collaborations across industry, to fully harness the transformative potential of green hydrogen for our economy in South Africa,” she added.

The country’s proposed hydrogen valley will start near Mokopane in Limpopo, where platinum group metals (PGMs) are mined, extending through the industrial and commercial corridor to Johannesburg and leading finally to Durban.

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Three catalytic green hydrogen hubs have been identified in South Africa’s Hydrogen Valley. These hubs have been identified based on locations with potential for a high concentration of future hydrogen demand, the possibility to produce hydrogen (access to sun/wind, water infrastructure), and contributions to the just transition

These hubs – in Johannesburg, Durban/Richards Bay, and Mogalakwena/Limpopo – will host pilot projects and contribute to the launch of the H2 economy in the Hydrogen Valley.

CEO of Bambili Energy, Zanele Mavuso Mbatha, believes the project will bring significant public awareness around renewable energy solutions and contribute significantly to the national and provincial objectives for new investment, job creation, renewable energy sources, and new export markets.

“This initiative underpins a growth market for the South African economy while supporting Bambili Energy’s mission, which also helps to reduce global carbon emission levels,” Mbatha said.

The Hydrogen Valley Feasibility Study Report was launched during a virtual event last Friday.

Story edited by ESI Africa. Source: SAnews.gov.za

Theresa Smith
Theresa Smith is a content producer for Clarion Events Africa.