With attendees at the recent African Energy Week event in Cape Town agreeing the continent should not be coerced out of its natural resources, one industry representative said countries should look to do more than just produce green hydrogen for other nations' benefit.
With the continent boasting rich potential to be a green hydrogen producer – thanks to the vast promise of affordable renewable energy – the argument has been made that green hydrogen could become a major source of export income as demand for the energy storage medium is set to rocket in Europe and other markets.
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However Sarushen Pillay, a senior representative of South African energy and chemicals company Sasol, said African nations should harness the green hydrogen they produce to manufacture value-added products such as sustainable steel, which could attract far more economic benefits than the simple gas itself.
Pillay was speaking at the energy event held in Cape Town last week at which Lars Greiner, an associate partner with Hamburg Port Consulting, stressed the potential for Africa to be a leading global producer of hydrogen. The port of Hamburg, in Germany, is already investing in hydrogen and, with Falk Bömeke, from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, stressing his government and the European Commission was ready to invest in African green hydrogen production, the appetite for the commodity outside Africa was clear.
To further emphasize the potential of a technology seen as key to the global energy transition – and which, as Pillay pointed out, could help power heavy vehicles in Africa's extensive mining operations – Fredrick Ndi-Obiosa, regional manager of U.S.-based science and technology business KBR, said the hydrogen market could be worth $2.5 trillion by mid century, roughly half the current value of the oil sector.
Keynote speaker Josef Abramowitz, president and CEO of Dutch-headquartered emerging market solar developer Gigawatt Global, told the event renewable energy is now cheaper than gas in Africa's emerging markets and said global investors had already committed to shift almost $40 trillion away from fossil fuels to renewables.
However, quoting the African Development Bank and United States overseas development body USAID, Abramowitz added: “The international community has failed to scale green energy to match the needs in Africa.”
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