SA could leave international rivals ‘green’ with envy

Along with the rest of the world, South Africa is challenged to power its economy with clean, affordable and sustainable energy and to transition to a carbon-neutral
society. Our emissions-reduction targets are based on commitments made in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. One way to meet these is by using hydrogen, which is why
global interest in and demand for “green” hydrogen in particular is rising fast. Hydrogen is used for industrial processes and heavy transport where electricity isn’t suitable. Green hydrogen is produced using renewable energy and is completely clean, in contrast to the so-called blue or grey hydrogen that is mostly available currently.

In February 2022, the Department of Science and Innovation unveiled a roadmap that points the way to South Africa becoming a hydrogen-driven society, with the aim to increase production and use of hydrogen from now until 2050. This is in line with the National Development Plan 2030, which includes a commitment to increasing investment in an energy sector that is environmentally sustainable. The event, attended by leaders in science and technology, business, the government and state enterprises, showcased work done over the last two years by more than 50 stakeholders in the development of the Hydrogen Society Roadmap. Director-General of Science and Innovation Dr Phil Mjwara
explained that the purpose is to build an “inclusive, sustainable and competitive hydrogen economy by 2050, with the goal of achieving a just and inclusive net zero carbon
economic growth for societal wellbeing by 2050.” Mjwara’s words were echoed by Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Dr “Blade” Nzimande in his keynote address:
“The Hydrogen Society Roadmap is one of government’s policy intents aimed at aligning stakeholders around a common vision on the deployment of hydrogen and hydrogen-related technologies in the country, and South Africa’s aspirations to be further integrated
into the global hydrogen system,” he said. Nzimande expressed confidence in the potential of the roadmap to make carbon “an energy vector that will enable the decarbonisation
of hard-to-abate sectors, such as heavy-duty transport and energyintensive industries”. The plans are expected to enhance efforts by the green power sector and provide
opportunities for manufacturing of hydrogen products and fuel cell components. They will also create an export market for South African green hydrogen. The goals are to decarbonise the transport sectors, including trucking, shipping, aviation and rail, and
energy-intensive industrial sectors such as iron and steel making, and mining. Further, the initiatives aim to create an export market for green hydrogen and green ammonia and
create a manufacturing sector for hydrogen products and components. All of this bodes well for job creation. Over the next two years, according to the roadmap, smal l-scale production of hydrogen will begin, along with reskilling and training people to work in the industry. The hydrogen produced will be used to power about 120 vehicles. From 2025 to 2040, production and use will be scaled up with the expectation that 20 000 jobs will
be created annually by 2030, and 30 000 annually by 2040. By then, the intention is for centralised hydrogen fuel production, power and storage and for it to be in full use in the transport, industry and power sectors. The hydrogen opportunity is being pursued as part of the government’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan and aims to rebrand
South Africa as a destination for sustainable investment. Another result should be
stronger partnerships between the government, private sector and civil society, one that addresses gender, equality and social inclusion at the core of the transition to a low carbon


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