South Africa is planning for a massive green ‘gold rush’

 ·25 May 2022

Energy company Sasol, together with the Industrial Development Corporation, is developing a project in Boegoebaai in the Northern Cape to use the country’s solar and wind resources to export green hydrogen at a massive scale, says president Cyril Ramaphosa.

Green hydrogen has many practical applications in industrial and residential settings. These range from it being used to power buses, steelwork plants and potentially planes. Green hydrogen can also be mixed with natural gas to help heat up homes.

Green hydrogen is also a more attractive form of energy than grey or brown hydrogen, which are produced by natural gas and coal, respectively.

In a media address on Tuesday (24 May), Ramaphosa said the project would also receive support from the German government and that the goal is to supply green hydrogen to the European Union – which is looking to import 10 million tons a year by 2030, he said.

“The Boegoebaai project presents an excellent opportunity for South Africa and Germany to cooperate in the fields of green hydrogen development, energy security, job creation, just transition and climate action.

“The longstanding cooperation between South Africa and Germany on climate issues will be further deepened through the Just Energy Transition Partnership between South Africa, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the US and the European Union that was announced at COP26 late last year.”

The president added that the development of the green hydrogen economy is a national economic priority for the country, which has the world’s largest platinum reserves.

Green gold rush 

The Boegobaai has the potential to produce up to 400 kilotons of hydrogen per annum, which will require renewable energy of 9 gigawatts or approximately 20% of South Africa’s current installed energy capacity.

This project has also been earmarked as a Strategic Integrated Project (SIP) in the South African National Development Plan (NDP).

Rising oil prices and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war have forced many countries around the world to seriously consider transitioning away from fossil fuels at a much faster rate.

“The opportunity here is that South Africa holds three significant structural advantages for producing green hydrogen for export,” said Gladys Nabagala, director of the energy transition advisory group at Royal HaskoningDHV.

“Our country’s size and climate mean that we have large-scale, high-quality renewable energy sources from solar and wind energy – boasting some of the highest average load factors in the world.”

Read: If your monthly Eskom bill is R1,500, here’s how much it will cost to just about get off the grid

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