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how SA can capitalise on it, and why we…


On Tuesday, in what was dubbed a “landmark” report, the Worldwide Power Company (IEA), the Worldwide Renewable Power Company (Irena) and the UN Local weather Change Excessive-Degree Champions launched the Breakthrough Agenda Report 2022, which offers an independent assessment of the historic commitments made by governments at COP26 local weather change convention in 2021, and the suggestions within the run-up to COP27 in November 2022. 

The report had been requested by world leaders and delivers a transparent name to motion for governments together with key suggestions that may assist to quickly scale back emissions, lower vitality prices and increase meals safety for billions of individuals worldwide, in step with the objective of conserving world warming to a most of 1.5°C (the global tipping point).

A big focus of the report was ramping up improvement of low-carbon and renewable hydrogen – recommending a rise of lower than a million tons in 2020 to about 150 million tons by 2030,which requires doubling every year from at the moment.

The report checked out how worldwide cooperation can improve the supply and affordability of renewable and low-carbon hydrogen and makes a robust name to extend concessional finance by multilateral improvement banks to mobilise large-scale personal funding in hydrogen initiatives in creating nations.

“What’s completely different about this report is its give attention to worldwide collaboration,” stated Simon Sharpe, director of economics for the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions on the press briefing for the launch of the report.

“There are numerous different reviews on the market saying what nations or companies can do individually. That is about how they’ll work collectively to realize greater than the sum of their components. It may try this with sooner innovation, stronger incentives for funding, bigger economies of scale, and degree taking part in fields the place we’d like them. All of these issues could make transitions sooner, easier and decrease value.”

Elizabeth Press, director of planning and programme help at Irena, stated that “hydrogen is all people’s darling in the intervening time, there’s loads of coverage consideration to this… on the place worldwide cooperation can actually shift the needle on hydrogen.”

Doubling yearly additionally requires an accelerated deployment of renewable energy. To achieve these targets, a pointy escalation in financing throughout the hydrogen worth chain is required.

Diagram of inexperienced hydrogen vitality system. (Credit score: Tobias Bischof-Niemz)

Out of the hydrogen manufacturing that exists at the moment, just one% of it’s “climate-proof”.

However how is hydrogen used to create electrical energy and why is it needed for us to incorporate it within the vitality combine?

Hydrogen within the vitality system

Will Swart, an vitality engineer at Meadows Energy, defined that there are a number of methods to provide hydrogen, however the commonest is thru hydrolysis – utilizing electrical energy to separate water molecules into hydrogen gasoline and oxygen atoms – this course of may be very vitality intensive, so it’s solely “inexperienced” hydrogen if this course of is fuelled by renewable vitality (comparable to wind or photo voltaic), not from fossil gasoline vitality (comparable to coal) known as “gray hydrogen”, which is what Sasol does. 

“After which you possibly can convert that hydrogen again into electrical energy by means of a course of the place hydrogen reacts with oxygen throughout an electrochemical cell producing electrical energy and water – so, it’s mainly the reverse of whenever you produce it.”

Learn extra in Each day Maverick: “Hydrogen as fuel — SA must be selective about how we make and use it for energy

Tobias Bischof-Niemz, vitality skilled and CEO of renewable vitality firm ENERTRAG South Africa, agreed and defined that hydrogen acts as an vitality provider – you possibly can both retailer hydrogen or use it immediately.

“If you happen to use the hydrogen in a direct discount furnace, for instance in a metal plant, then the hydrogen successfully burns and turns into water once more.”

Except there’s a gas leak, there are not any emissions into the environment, simply water vapour – making it “inexperienced”.

Whereas Bischof-Niemz acknowledged that we do have to watch leaks, he stated that even with a fully huge leakage of 10% of hydrogen – which is “truly unattainable, as a result of loads of the hydrogen will instantly be transformed into one thing else, like ammonia” – the worldwide warming potentials of all the leak would solely be lower than 1% of at the moment’s CO2 emissions.

Is hydrogen actually needed?

Properly, hydrogen has three actual advantages – long-term storage, financial alternatives from exporting it to different nations, and decarbonising the setting.

When Each day Maverick previously reported on the benefits of hydrogen as a gasoline, a number of readers had been sceptical of the motives behind this improvement, asking whether or not remodeling renewable vitality into hydrogen just for it for use as vitality once more is inefficient and needed. 

Whereas long-term storage shouldn’t be as related in a rustic like South Africa with much less seasonal variability (now we have extra constant photo voltaic, for instance, in contrast to nations in Europe), hydrogen is a technical necessity to decarbonise our surroundings.

Press from Irena stated {that a} driving drive behind inexperienced hydrogen improvement is that it’s a “local weather crucial”.

“There are completely areas the place we all know no different resolution exists at the moment, and that the hydrogen must be superior for that objective,” stated Press.

Bischof-Niemz defined that inexperienced hydrogen is a technical necessity in a totally decarbonised, net-zero world as a result of there is no such thing as a different (recognized) approach to decarbonise metal, delivery, aviation gasoline, fertiliser or chemical compounds.

For instance, giant container ships can’t run on batteries so that you want a gasoline, and a inexperienced one at that.

“So, naturally we’d like a gasoline that’s made out of the brand new main vitality which will likely be electrical energy from solar and wind,” stated Bischof-Niemz.

Learn extra in Each day Maverick: “A new ‘green hydrogen’ venture could change the way we do business

The report highlights that there are restricted various clear vitality options in sectors comparable to heavy trade, delivery, aviation, seasonal electrical energy storage, and probably segments of professional quality trucking.

Contemplating that transport has the best reliance on fossil fuels internationally, the necessity for hydrogen turns into extra apparent.

All-electric ‘not possible’

Ronny Kaufmann, CEO of Swisspower, a strategic alliance of a very powerful metropolis utilities in Switzerland, spoke to Our Burning Planet concerning the significance of leveraging a rustic’s pure sources in relation to the vitality combine and the significance of inexperienced hydrogen for storage.

Kaufmann stated he doesn’t imagine in an all-electric vitality system as a result of it “has its systemic failures and is a romantic view of some individuals”.

Utilizing different vitality sources, comparable to hydrogen or biomethane, was higher than simply producing electrical energy in sure instances.

“However a world the place you substitute all vitality sources into electrical energy won’t work. It’s higher to make use of hydrogen than fossil gasoline – and an all-electric world shouldn’t be possible.”

Power skilled Clyde Mallinson stated one criticism of hydrogen improvement is that South Africa doesn’t require long-term storage. 

“This isn’t at present the case in lots of increased latitude nations, who’ve huge interseasonal variances in photo voltaic particularly,” he stated.

Bischof-Niemz agreed that long-term storage is much less related in a rustic like South Africa, however stated it’s nonetheless wanted in sectors that can’t decarbonise in any other case.

Moreover, hydrogen might turn out to be extra related in South Africa as renewable technology will increase and if we create surpluses. 

For instance, Kaufmann defined that each nation has its personal vitality technical setting, and for Switzerland it’s a sizzling summer season and a really chilly winter, which suggests in summer season there’s a surplus of electrical energy.

Switzerland produces as a lot vitality in summer season as potential, and makes use of the excess (from renewables or nuclear sources) to pump water to the mountains the place they’ve dams. Then in winter, when electrical energy demand is increased, they use this water to generate energy. 

Ronny Kaufmann, CEO of Swisspower. (Picture: Swisspower AG)

Moreover, Kaufmann explains that like Japan (however in contrast to South Africa), Switzerland doesn’t have loads of floor, but it surely does have verticals within the panorama, which it makes use of to provide vitality. 

Traditionally it was a lot simpler to provide water than photo voltaic vitality, so most of Switzerland’s electrical energy comes from hydropower (pump storage from dams and run-of-the-river hydroelectricity).

In South Africa, utilizing our area and wind and photo voltaic potential and storing surplus vitality by means of inexperienced hydrogen may very well be helpful.

“Lots of people suppose it’s the reply to vitality storage,” stated Swart, referring to hydrogen. “Wind and photo voltaic solely produce energy when the solar is shining or the wind is blowing. However should you use that renewable vitality to provide hydrogen, then you’ve a method to retailer that vitality.”

Kaufmann provides: “There are loads of manufacturing prospects for gasoline, like utilizing electrical energy surpluses you’ve from the summer season that you could’t retailer with renewable sources.”

Bischof-Niemz explains that hydrogen shouldn’t be an alternate storage to batteries, however can be utilized as well as. Batteries are “completely suited to stability the day-to-night-time fluctuations, however hydrogen is best suited to the long run, as a result of you possibly can retailer it away inexpensively with out shedding something.”


Go to Daily Maverick’s home page for extra information, evaluation and investigations


Swart provides that with its good wind and photo voltaic sources, South Africa might arrange crops to provide inexperienced hydrogen, which it might export to “anybody the world over to make use of that to provide inexperienced electrical energy, which may very well be big for South Africa”.

Our Burning Planet previously reported that if South Africa creates the coverage and funding framework to construct the infrastructure for large-scale manufacturing of inexperienced hydrogen, it might have big financial advantages.

The nation has considerable pure sources and accessible land for the method and is thus ideally positioned to provide sufficient inexperienced hydrogen to each decarbonise lots of its personal energy-intensive industries and faucet into the quickly constructing world demand for the gasoline, based on analysis commissioned by the European Union Delegation to South Africa.

Learn extra in Each day Maverick: “Green hydrogen provides answer to many of South Africa’s decarbonisation prayers, studies show

For instance, Switzerland, which doesn’t have naturally occurring fossil fuels comparable to gasoline or coal, doesn’t import coal however does import renewable gasoline. Kaufmann stated the nation has a goal to make its gasoline consumption extra renewable.

And like many nations in Europe, it’s extremely depending on Russian gasoline.

“Societies are realising that now we have to first diversify the origin of our gasoline suppliers after which make our gasoline consumption extra renewable,” stated Kaufmann.

South Africa’s plans for hydrogen

South Africa already produces hydrogen – however it’s “gray” hydrogen from fossil fuels (coal), which ends up in huge carbon emissions.

Bischof-Niemz’s analysis discovered that Sasol’s Secunda web site in Mpumalanga – which converts giant portions of coal into fuels, chemical compounds and carbon dioxide – is among the world’s largest sources of carbon dioxide, emitting 57 million tonnes yearly.

Secunda has a Fischer-Tropsch reactor, into which hydrogen and carbon monoxide is positioned to create liquid hydrocarbons, comparable to  petrol and aviation gasoline.

Whereas it produces harmful emissions now, this expertise may very well be used to create inexperienced hydrogen.

“It’s an enormous legal responsibility, however you possibly can flip it into a chance as effectively, as a result of the Fischer-Tropsch expertise is required in the long term in a decarbonised world to provide aviation gasoline,” stated Bischof-Niemz, explaining that in a totally decarbonised world we are going to want chemical amenities just like the Fischer-Tropsch reactor to provide artificial aviation gasoline.

And South Africa does have plans to make hydrogen manufacturing inexperienced – Daily Maverick previously reported that President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his 2022 State of the Nation address, introduced R270-billion for the event of a hydrogen pipeline. And Minister of Increased Schooling, Science and Innovation Blade Nzimande has launched South Africa’s Hydrogen Society Roadmap, which proposes that hydrogen be used all through the economic system.

There appear to be plans in place, however what the breakthrough report signifies is that this must occur now. 

“This report is completely proper. We want extra engagement, more cash within the system, extra braveness, extra economies of scale,” stated Kaufmann, including that the second factor that stood out within the report was that “we’ve obtained to be sooner”. DM/OBP

 

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