The University of Pretoria (UP) will, for the next month, provide training for technical and vocational education and training college graduates on hydrogen fuel cell systems.
The training, which is provided in partnership with Bambili Energy, the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation and the Energy & Water Sector Education Training Authority (EWSeta), is expected to end on December 11.
UP electrical engineering department head Raj Naidoo says the university aims to develop competent, capable and work-ready technicians for the deployment, installation and maintenance of hydrogen fuel cell systems in South Africa and beyond.
Addressing a virtual event held to officially launch the training, Higher Education, Science and Technology Deputy Minister Buti Manamela said fuel cells were expected to play a significant role in providing energy to buildings and in off-grid electrification, particularly in areas where grid extension was not economically viable.
To address these markets, capabilities need to be built to support the local manufacturing of the technologies, as well as their deployment in the various applications.
“Having local skills to install, operate and maintain the fuel cell systems is critical. The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) views this as an opportunity that can be filled by graduates at N4 to N6 levels with electrical and chemical engineering qualifications,” Manamela stated.
“UP supports human capital development,” said Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology Professor Sunil Maharaj.
“We are honoured to launch this event. UP is part of the energy space in the country in both demand-side management and energy efficiency, covering solar, nuclear, other renewables and now hydrogen. We are humbled to be partnering with Bambili Energy.”
Referring to the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, Maharaj said humankind needed to save the planet especially in terms of mitigating climate change and transitioning to clean energy for sustainable living.
“We all need to work together to make this planet a safer place for the next generation and UP is grateful to walk this journey with all the partners, ranging from government, State-owned enterprises and industry to original-equipment manufacturers and the sector education and training authorities.”
DSI deputy director-general Dr Mmboneni Muofhe said the training was being funded by the EWSeta and DSI as part of implementing the Cabinet-approved Hydrogen South Africa Strategy through a 15-year research, development and innovation programme.
This programme is aimed at developing hydrogen and fuel cell technologies, with a focus on beneficiating the platinum group metals resource base that South Africa possesses. The programme is therefore an important pillar in positioning South Africa as part of the emerging global hydrogen economy.
The DSI selected Bambili Energy to facilitate the training, which complements the demonstration of 15 hydrogen fuel cell systems in South Africa. Currently, seven of these fuel cell systems are operational at a military hospital, in Pretoria, as Covid-19-related support provided by government.
Bambili CEO Zanele Mavuso noted that it had been "an incredible journey of planning and organising for the launch of this training" and that the goal was to ensure that, by completion of training, graduates would be effectively knowledgeable about the fuel cell industry, the hydrogen economy and renewable energy, and, most importantly, have the ability to fuel and maintain fuel cell systems.