SETH ONYANGO, BIRD
WITH a near all-year-round supply of abundant sun and wind, African countries have an edge over their EU, American and Asian counterparts when it comes to renewable energy.
The World Bank’s International Finance Corporation estimates the wind potential of Africa alone to be more than 59,000GW and the continent.
Africa –– with the right investment and innovation –– is also in a position to create a dynamic and highly competitive green hydrogen export economy. Green hydrogen is hydrogen gas created by converting water into hydrogen and oxygen, using renewable energy.
South Africa, encouraged by in particular Germany, and with some useful intellectual property (in the form of chemical giant Sasol’s proprietary Fischer-Tropsch technology) is looking at developing green hydrogen export terminals. Namibia has suggested that South Africa consider joining forces to develop this opportunity further. Further north, projects such as the 6,450MW Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia, the 580MW Noor Ouarzazate Solar complex in Morocco and the 310MW Lake Turkana wind farm in Kenya are renewable energy developments that could be harnessed to create competitive green hydrogen.
Beyond exports of green hydrogen, the infrastructure required for direct energy sales into Europe from Africa will also soon be a reality. Egypt, Cyprus and Greece have inked a trilateral deal to build the first subsea grid linking Europe and Africa across the Mediterranean sea.
Upon completion, the undersea cable will transmit clean energy generated in North Africa to Europe, earning Egypt and the Maghreb states millions of dollars annually.
Egypt has also outlined plans to link its electricity grid with Sudan, Libya, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, as it pushes to become a major regional power interconnector.
Documents show the undersea cable will stretch 1,396 kilometres (the world’s longest) with 2.7 billion US dollars committed for the project. It would allow the three Mediterranean nations to share up to 2,000 megawatts at peak times –– and could up a channel for other African states to sell power to Europe.
The aforementioned states are also hoping the project will be integrated into the European Union Projects of Common Interest (PCI), paving the way for more investments.
Egypt produces cheap renewable energy and currently has a surplus. Linking the state’s national grid with Greece would give it a foothold into the European market.
Egypt’s surplus is in part thanks to investment partnerships with Germany’s power company Siemens Energy. In 2015, Siemens signed a 9 billion dollars deal with Egypt to supply gas and wind power plants to boost the North African state’s electricity generation by 50 per cent… pointing further opportunities for Africa to get European companies to invest in renewables expansion on the continent – to sell green power to Europe.
In August this year, Siemens entered another agreement with the Egyptian Electricity Holding Company to jointly develop a hydrogen-based industry in the country, with export capability.
As part of initial steps, Siemens and EEHC will pursue the development of a pilot project, comprising 100 to 200 MW of electrolyzer capacity, which will help to drive early technology deployment, establish a partner landscape, establish and test regulatory environment and certification, setup off-take relations, and define logistic concepts.
According to Siemens, Egypt has a rich mix of renewable energy resources, “a strong industrial base, developed infrastructure and access to markets, providing a solid foundation on which to develop a robust green hydrogen industry.”
Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco have also invested billions of dollars in power generation, particularly solar in a bid to plug national deficits and cash in on the surplus.
For instance, at 580 MW, the Ouarzazate Solar Power Station also called Noor Power Station in central Morocco is the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant.
Meanwhile, a 2020 International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) report indicates that Africa is in a position to tap the resource and “adopt innovative, sustainable technologies and play a leading role in global action to shape a sustainable energy future” as Europe looks to retire all its dirty fuels by 2050.
“The continent could meet nearly a quarter of its energy needs from indigenous and clean renewable energy sources by 2030 and increase the share of renewables in its total energy mix to as much as two-thirds by 2050,” the IRENA report reads.
Similarly, green hydrogen could supply up to 25 per cent of the world’s energy needs by 2050 and become a 10 trillion US dollars addressable market by 2050, according to Goldman Sachs.