South Africa’s Hydrogen Society Roadmap (HSRM) will be presented for Cabinet approval either before the end of the year or early next year and should outline how the country’s resource advantages should be leveraged to produce green hydrogen, as well as to integrate hydrogen-related technologies, such as fuel cells, into various sectors of the economy.
Department of Science and Innovation chief director for hydrogen and energy Dr Rebecca Masemurule says the HSRM is likely to emphasise the centrality of renewable energy not only in the production of clean electricity, but also to produce competitive green fuels that can be used to decarbonise hard-to-abate sectors, such as land and marine freight logistics, as well as the manufacture of steel, cement and chemicals.
“If we can ensure that we get the regulatory support in place quickly, we can ensure that renewables are able to play a role in producing green hydrogen or green ammonia for South Africa, as well as for export markets,” she said during a webinar hosted jointly by the National Press Club and the Government Communication and Information System on Wednesday.
“The purpose of the HSRM is to align stakeholders around a common vision on hydrogen-related technologies for the country in order to create an environment where investment decisions can be made to unlock the social and economic benefits that can accrue through its implementation,” Masemurule said.
Her message gelled strongly with the one outlined a day earlier by Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel, who described renewables and green hydrogen as the emerging energy providers and carriers of the twenty-first century, much as oil and nuclear had been during the twentieth century.
Patel also highlighted South Africa natural resources advantages, notably its solar, wind and platinum group metals (PGMs), arguing that these positioned it well to produce competitively priced green hydrogen through electrolysis – the process of splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity.
The Minister spoke as part of the same webinar during which energy and chemicals group Sasol announced two green-hydrogen initiatives: the creation of a consortium comprising Sasol, Linde, ENERTRAG and Navitas, which will bid under the auspices of the German Federal government’s H2Global auction platform to produce sustainable aviation fuel in Secunda, based on green hydrogen; and the formation of a partnership with Toyota to explore the development of a green hydrogen mobility ecosystem in South Africa.
Earlier, the Department of Science and Innovation announced that it was spearheading a feasibility study into a ‘hydrogen valley’, in collaboration with Anglo American, Engie, the South African National Development Institute and Bambili Energy.
Patel also announced that the State-owned Industrial Development Corporation had been mandated to finance green hydrogen projects in South Africa.
Masemurule said that one of the spin-offs from integrating renewable energy into both the country’s power and fuels sectors would be the creation of sufficient local demand for wind and solar photovoltaic components and systems that could spur higher levels of local manufacture and industrialisation.
The HSRM would also seek to build on the Hydrogen South Africa strategy, drafted in 2008, which focused primarily on the opportunities presented by the hydrogen economy for beneficiation the country’s PGMs endowment.
Masemurule said the development of the HSRM was a collaborative, multistakeholder and multidisciplinary endeavour “with the objective of coalescing all efforts towards unlocking the full potential of the country’s hydrogen socioeconomic value”.
More than 50 stakeholders were currently being consulted on the roadmap, a draft of which was likely to be finalised in the coming few months.
In addition, she reported that green hydrogen was featuring in various industrial masterplans that were currently either under development or in implementation, including the South African Renewable Energy Masterplan, the Steel Masterplan and the Automotive Masterplan.
In addition, hydrogen could feature in South Africa’s emerging just transition strategy for energy workers, firms and communities linked it the coal supply chain.
“The South African Renewable Energy Masterplan will include a role for renewables in the fuel sector of the economy,” she reported.
A draft of the South African Renewable Energy Masterplan is expected to be published during the first half of 2021.
“So, there are many plans of government that are including hydrogen as an energy carrier for providing energy services.”