Africa’s green hydrogen technology is advancing rapidly, providing the continent with a promising opportunity to expand its energy resources while achieving a net-zero outcome. Projections now paint an optimistic future where the energy market harnesses technological potential, promoting sustainable and cost-effective practices. This progress aims to fulfill Africa’s global climate commitments while alleviating poverty for its citizens. Despite contributing less than 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions, Africa is committed to transitioning to cleaner energy sources. To decarbonize its economy, the continent is actively financing renewable energy projects, particularly green hydrogen alternatives, which domestic resources can produce.
In terms of definition, for hydrogen to qualify as green, it must come from renewable energy sources, unlike black/brown and blue/gray hydrogen, which come from nonrenewable sources, coal and methane respectively. According to the United Nations (U.N.), hydrogen’s power generation source can either be renewable or nonrenewable. In this case, the focus here is on renewable energy for green hydrogen production, capable of storing excess energy generated during peak cycles.
The Impact of Green Hydrogen Fuel
The use of green hydrogen fuel prevents the heating of the atmosphere, reducing the impacts of environmental shocks in African cities and communities. Solar power, wind power, geothermal and biomass are among the domestic resources utilized for green hydrogen production, all of which are renewable energy sources.
Green hydrogen technology can provide significant support to the 600 million Africans without accessible electricity, aligning with the global movement toward more sustainable economies. Many investments into green hydrogen technology have propelled this to become a wider market in Africa as it is an ambitious development with much potential. The International Energy Agency suggests Africa could become a global hub for green hydrogen production due to its abundance of wind and solar energy.
The Just Energy Transition Partnership
Since November 2021, South Africa has been collaborating with France, Germany, the U.S. and the U.K. in its decarbonization efforts through the Just Energy Transition Partnership. This initiative aims to enable South Africa’s economy to achieve its low carbon emission goals while also generating green jobs. The initial phase of funding involves a commitment of $8.5 billion to facilitate the shift away from fossil fuels and to promote investments in green hydrogen and electric vehicles, as reported by the European Commission.
In a speech about the partnership, President Biden acknowledges South Africa as the “largest emitter in Africa,” mainly due to its heavy reliance on coal for power. However, the partnership’s funding aims to assist vulnerable communities, including coal miners, women and youth, as noted by Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission. Researchers have analyzed the potential impact of green hydrogen technology on Africa’s job market. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) predicts that the GDP of six African countries involved in the Africa Green Hydrogen Alliance (Egypt, Morocco, Kenya, South Africa, Mauritania and Namibia) could increase through market exports and domestic demand for “green hydrogen related products.” The Alliance’s study confirms Africa’s significant potential to embrace local communities in the adoption of green, clean energy sources, creating millions of jobs and fostering a climate-resilient economy.
In 2021, a new project was announced in Namibia, a country that offers significant potential in domestic and international markets for affordable green hydrogen. This project involves a $9.4 billion hydrogen initiative, scheduled to commence in 2026, that reinforces the commitment to producing low-cost hydrogen.
A Look Ahead
The groundwork for many upcoming projects for green hydrogen technology requires financial support due to Africa’s economic viability. Collaborative work has been continuously communicated throughout many nations in an effort to reform policy-making within the energy sector, allowing for economic developments that protect energy security and reduce poverty in African communities.
–Lucy Cosme Vera