DST hosts hydrogen fuel cell technology conference

3rd December 2018 By: Nadine James - Features Deputy Editor

Global stakeholders in the multibillion-dollar fuel cell industry will meet in Pretoria this week for the thirtieth Steering Committee Meeting of the International Partnership for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in the Economy (IPHE).

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) will host the meeting from December 4 to 7, as it looks to develop the local fuel cells market.

Representatives from China, the US, Brazil, Japan, Zimbabwe, India and the European Commission will participate in the meeting, which is dedicated to the development, promotion and integration of hydrogen fuel cells (HFCs) in the global economy.

Research indicates that the global fuel cell industry reached $2.2-billion in revenue in 2014 and $3.6-billion in 2016, with countries such as Japan, China and the US at the forefront of innovation in this industry.

The IPHE serves as a mechanism to organise and implement effective and focused international research and development, demonstration and deployment activities related to HFC technologies.

It also provides a forum for sharing best practices on initiatives, policies, regulations and standards to accelerate the widespread deployment of HFCs to enable energy, economic and environmental security worldwide.

South Africa has been a member of IPHE since 2010 and the DST has been implementing the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Research, Development and Innovation (HySA) Strategy since 2008. The HySA strategy is aimed at developing products geared toward the export market.

The country has demonstrated its capabilities by developing various products, including a hydrogen-powered forklift, a 2 kW HFC system deployed at the University of the Western Cape's nature reserve and, more recently, a 2.5 kW HFC system deployed in a rural area for offgrid power supply.

The IPHE provides an opportunity for South Africa to learn about the expectations of the global market in terms of product performance and targets, the current limitations of technologies and what is being done to address the challenges in the market.

One of the primary objectives of the HySA Strategy is to create wealth through value-added manufacturing, by developing the platinum group metal catalysis value chain in South Africa, with the aim of capturing 25% of the global fuel cell market.

The IPHE meeting will include a government roundtable focusing on policy and various government departments, including Trade and Industry, Energy, Mineral Resources and National Treasury, are expected to attend.

Participants will also include academics and local university students, CEOs of local platinum companies, science councils, and gas and fuel cell companies. Global companies, utilities and car manufacturers will also share their experience and expectations.

Additionally, Science and Technology Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane will address a select group of IPHE delegates at a breakfast meeting on December 7.