Vaal Special Economic Zone (SEZ) programme director Xola Sithole says the SEZ is seeking to position itself as South Africa’s “pre-eminent hub for the hydrogen economy”.
In so doing, he says, the SEZ will participate in developing the hydrogen market primarily for Gauteng, and beyond, while simultaneously providing established hydrogen-based energy security for the businesses within the SEZ and Gauteng.
Additionally, Sithole states that solar capabilities to support the hydrogen market will be developed alongside a hydrogen value chain that “supports the greening of manufacturing industries in the Vaal”.
Through this endeavour, the Vaal SEZ will be localising the production of renewable energy components, including for the hydrogen value chain, and enabling independent power producers (IPPs) at municipal level to scale up green energy production.
All of these commitments and intentions will develop additional skills within the hydrogen sector, Sithole notes, adding that the SEZ will also be “supporting the development of the hydrogen economy supply chains within township-based and under-served industrial hubs”.
These goals, Sithole explains, fall in line with the Vaal SEZ’s objective to develop a multisector, multisite SEZ in the Vaal region in an attempt to regenerate the area, support new economic activity and build on the historic competitive strengths and skills base in the area.
However, a key component of this strategy is to capture the vast economic development opportunities provided by the nascent hydrogen economy.
In turn, this will see the Vaal region transforming into a green energy-fuelled industrial basin in the country’s pre-eminent hub for low-carbon manufacturing and renewable energy production, which Sithole says will drive high-impact investments into the food, agriculture and agro-industries value chain.
Additionally, investment into gateway logistics (such as air, road, rail and river) will exploit the locational advantages of the Sedibeng district and further investment into the blue economy and tourism sector of the Vaal river.
To achieve all of this, however, the SEZ Master Plan development process must be completed and a pipeline of firm investment commitments secured.
The initial groundbreaking is expected in 2022 once the SEZ designation licence has been secured for the Vaal SEZ.
*Sithole spoke during episode two of the Hydrogen Economy Indaba on October 14.