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South Africa Boosts Local Demand for Green Hydrogen

Minerals Council Leads Charge in Hydrogen Economy

by Adenike Adeodun

In a strategic move to energize South Africa’s burgeoning hydrogen economy, the Minerals Council South Africa is rallying to amplify domestic demand for green hydrogen. This initiative, spearheaded by influential figures such as Dr. Rebecca Maserumule and Zanele Mavuso Mbatha, underscores a strategic pivot towards sustainable energy solutions within the mining sector and beyond.

At the heart of this transformative agenda is the Minerals Council’s commitment to integrate green hydrogen into both stationary and mobility applications within the mining industry. Sietse van der Woude, a senior executive at the Council, emphasized this dual approach during a panel discussion facilitated by Mahandra Rooplall from the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa (IDC). The panel also featured Dr. Rebecca Maserumule, the chief science and technology representative from the Department of Science and Innovation, and Zanele Mavuso Mbatha, CEO of Bambili Energy.

During the discussion, van der Woude elucidated the potential shift in energy utilization within the mining sector, highlighting the currently non-viable yet promising future of stationary applications for hydrogen. He pointed out the economic viability that could emerge with shifts in electricity reliability and pricing trends. However, it was the mobility applications where a more immediate impact could be felt, particularly with heavy mine trucks that could not be efficiently powered by electricity alone.

Dr. Maserumule expanded the discourse to a continental perspective, noting that six African countries including Algeria, Kenya, Mauritania, Morocco, Namibia, and South Africa have already established hydrogen strategies. These strategies align with a global push where over fifty countries have adopted similar plans. Maserumule highlighted ambitious projections for green hydrogen production, suggesting that Africa could capture 15% of the global market by 2050, translating into significant economic and employment opportunities across the continent.

The socio-economic benefits tied to these projections are staggering. By 2050, it’s estimated that the green hydrogen sector could inject $400 billion into the African economy and create 30 million job years. Such prospects position green hydrogen not just as an energy solution, but as a pivotal economic catalyst for the continent.

Despite the optimistic forecasts, the shift towards green hydrogen is not devoid of challenges. The transition from grey hydrogen, which is produced from fossil fuels and currently dominates South African production, to green hydrogen involves hefty capital expenditures on renewable energy sources and electrolysers. Dr. Maserumule pointed out the disparity in investment costs between developed and developing regions, which could potentially hinder rapid development. However, South Africa’s competitive renewable energy costs provide a unique advantage that could mitigate some of these financial challenges.

To bolster this transition, the IDC is actively engaging in strategies to reduce project execution risks and enhance the investment climate, particularly through its Just Energy Transition Investment Plan and the establishment of a dedicated green hydrogen unit. This strategic focus is aimed at smoothing the path to final investment decisions for green hydrogen projects, optimizing capital expenditure, and ensuring competitive hydrogen costs on a global scale.

Zanele Mavuso Mbatha from Bambili Energy discussed the crucial role of early adopters in the green hydrogen sector, particularly in the platinum group metals (PGM) space, which is vital for the manufacturing of components essential for fuel cell systems. The anticipated decline in PGM demand due to the rise of battery electric vehicles presents both a challenge and an opportunity for South Africa. The integration of PGMs into the green hydrogen value chain could help sustain and potentially expand the industry’s base, mitigating the economic impacts of shifting automotive technologies.

The concerted efforts by the Minerals Council South Africa, alongside key stakeholders like the IDC and pioneering companies like Bambili Energy, underline a comprehensive strategy to not only foster a robust domestic market for green hydrogen but also position South Africa as a leader in the global hydrogen economy. This strategic pivot is not merely about transitioning energy sources; it’s about redefining economic pathways and securing sustainable, long-term industrial growth for South Africa and the wider African continent.


Source: Mining Weekly

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