Green light for a green hydrogen economy in Africa


Today, green hydrogen, powered by renewable electricity, represents 4% of total global hydrogen production.

Long-term forecasts from various industrial sources point to exponential growth in green hydrogen consumption over the following decades as transportation and heavy industries decarbonize. Between 1,000 GW and 4,000 GW of renewable capacity would be needed by 2050 to meet demand, in turn underscoring the vast growth potential of wind.

The current hydrogen market is carbon intensive. This could be a unique opportunity for investors and policy makers to reduce emissions and develop national strategies for future hydrogen production based on clean and renewable energy sources such as wind or solar power.

Siemens Gamesa has taken the lead in the green hydrogen energy revolution thanks to its position as a pioneer in the wind industry. At the end of 2020, the company launched the first pilot project in the world to connect a wind turbine to an electrolyser that can operate in “island mode”, that is to say control an electrolysis platform unrelated to a power grid. .

With the Brande Hydrogen project, Siemens Gamesa is pioneering a major potential future application for onshore and offshore wind power.

The pilot is located near the company’s Danish headquarters in Brande, Denmark. Owned by local partner Uhre Windpower, it includes a Siemens Gamesa 3 MW wind turbine that will produce clean electricity to power a 400 kW electrolyser. This machine separates water into oxygen and hydrogen, so that the hydrogen can be stored and then delivered to customers in the mobility sector. The project started production in January 2021.

In addition, the company recently partnered with Siemens Energy to introduce a revolutionary innovative solution that fully integrates an electrolyser into our SG 14-222 DD offshore wind turbine, as a single synchronized system, to directly produce green hydrogen. The two companies have agreed to provide a full-scale offshore demonstration of this solution by 2025/2026.

Opportunities for North Africa

By 2050, the European energy system should be largely based on variable renewable energies and hydrogen will be essential for transport and storage.

Due to its limited size and high population density, Europe will not be able to produce all of its renewable energy nationally. Therefore, it is assumed that a large part of the required hydrogen will be imported. To this end, several European countries have launched ambitious hydrogen strategies that will play a crucial role in Africa’s development.

There is a high potential for greater cooperation between Europe and Africa in the decades to come, and the two regions could become more interdependent. The launch of the European Green Deal, focused on Europe and on external cooperation with neighboring regions, will benefit Africa.

North African countries could be the first to adopt within the African Union to supply green hydrogen to Europe due to the potential of their resources, proximity and existing trade relations.

IRENA’s Renewable Energy Roadmap for Africa 2030 indicates a feasible expansion capacity of 70 GW of wind power and 50 GW of concentrated solar and photovoltaic power in North Africa. As the market matures, existing pipelines can be converted and new pipelines to transport green hydrogen from North Africa to Europe can be built.

A common hydrogen economy between Europe and North Africa can help build a European energy system based on 50% renewable electricity and 50% green hydrogen by 2050. Before 2030, this coup an inch to hydrogen will lower the costs of producing electricity from wind power to around € 10. -20 per MWh on sites with wind resources throughout North Africa.

Another cost-effective advantage is that hydrogen can be imported from North Africa by pipeline, which is cheaper than imports by ship, thus enabling Europe to establish a sustainable energy system.

In addition, this North African approach to hydrogen would create economic growth, forward-looking jobs and social stability in North African countries. In this region, two countries with ambitious renewable energy goals have already taken concrete measures to strengthen the hydrogen revolution:

Morocco, whose green hydrogen potential could benefit both Africa and Europe, creating an energy bridge between the two continents, signed in June 2021 a strategic partnership with Irena, with the aim of becoming a major producer and exporter of green hydrogen. Both sides will actively pursue green hydrogen studies and explore policy instruments to engage the private sector at national level in the green hydrogen economy.

Likewise, Egypt, which intends to reach a 42% share of renewable energy in its energy mix by 2035, has signed some memoranda of understanding, such as Siemens Energy with the Egyptian Electricity Holding Company (EEHC ) to jointly develop a pilot project, compromising 100 to 200 MW of electrolyser capacity. With Siemens Gamesa holding 91% of the market share of the wind power capacity installed in Egypt, this agreement represents another strong commitment from the group’s vision to support the country’s ambitions.

In addition, according to the World Bank, the first hydrogen markets identified on the continent are Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Morocco and South Africa: all places where Siemens Gamesa is a pioneer in the wind power.

South Africa could become a major exporter of green hydrogen

International Energy Agency (IEA) says hydrogen and hydrogen-based fuels can transport energy from renewable sources over long distances, from regions with abundant solar resources and wind turbines.

In this context, one of the potential countries in the south of the continent is South Africa, which already has extensive experience in creating around 8 billion liters of synthetic fuels per year. This existing infrastructure could be reused to produce green hydrogen, so the country plays a catalytic role in building the wind power capacity needed to power a hydrogen economy.

Siemens Gamesa’s recently completed 140 MW Kangnas and 110 MW Perdekraal wind projects could potentially support this trend if electrolysers are added and connected to the turbines to produce green hydrogen.

This potential capacity could have significant implications for the future of South Africa’s economy by making the country a major exporter of green hydrogen to the world, while decarbonizing large sectors of its own economy.

Contribute to the “green recovery”

As world leaders seek to ensure a ‘green recovery’ from Covid-19, the need to provide clean and affordable energy solutions is greater than ever. Green hydrogen has significant decarbonization potential – especially in heavy polluting industries – offering developing countries in Africa and around the world the opportunity to meet their national sustainable energy goals.

Siemens Gamesa hydrogen white paper not only offers an overview of what needs to happen to make green hydrogen viable, but also describes how the company’s expertise in producing energy from renewable sources will enable green hydrogen to be produced at globally, at scale and cost effectively.

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