Whether the hydrogen economy turns out to be a whole lot of hype or the hope for Africa to create clean energy for all would depend very much on whether the continent’s various governments actively put measures into place to take advantage of the proposed energy value chain.
Speaking on an Enlit Africa and ESI Africa roundtable online, various speakers spoke about their hope for South Africa, and indeed the continent to take advantage. The panel also reminded the audience that, like any energy system, it would take a while before any actual benefits would be repeated.
Craig Morkel, representative of the Southern African Oil and Gas Alliance, said: “We cannot simply flip a switch from fossil intensive pathways to green hydrogen and renewable energy immediately. There needs to be a transitional phase that incrementally increases our use of green technologies.”
Morkel sees gas, such as LNG, as a transition fuel that could replace coal in the next few years, and which itself could be replaced by hydrogen down the line. He reminded participants that the ultimate objective of investing in hydrogen is to decarbonise energy systems to net zero by 2050.
“It’s not [possible to achieve] net zero carbon tomorrow. How do we reduce greenhouse gases over this period of time? We should be colour blind, not carbon blind, no matter if it is grey, green or blue, as long as it is better than what we have right now,” said Morkel.
Professor Tariq Kahn, director of CPUT’s Energy Centre, displayed a little more skepticism around blue hydrogen’s potential, reminding everyone that nitrous oxide is a potential side product being sidelined in discussions around carbon capture technologies and the wonders of using hydrogen as an energy source.
He mentioned a study which showed burning hydrogen enriched gas in an industrial turbine leads to six times the amount of nitrous oxide being released into the atmosphere than methane released when using the coal based procured.
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