Corporate event Photographer Pretoria: UP Webinar – The creation of a South African Hydrogen Economy for Energy Security and Sustainability
- Author Janine Smith
- Published by Hlengiwe Mnguni
I attended the webinar as the Corporate event photographer Pretoria on behalf of Eyescape Studios
Given the country’s current energy crisis and the increasing problems related to the supply of coal-fired sources of electricity, the time has come to consider expanding South Africa’s current alternative energy sources. As an institution committed to pursuing research that addresses complex societal challenges, the University of Pretoria has identified energy as one of its core institutional research themes.
In the Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology, research focused on optimising and developing new approaches to the country’s energy and power systems is located, among others, in its Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering. A particular focus of this Department is building capacity to support the development of South Africa’s hydrogen potential and the creation of a South African hydrogen economy for energy security and sustainability.
Extraction in an cost effective manner
While fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas have long proven their effectiveness in producing heat and providing power for domestic and industrial use, they are becoming harder to extract in a cost-effective manner. Their effect on the environment and human health in terms of their carbon emissions is becoming an increasing source of concern globally. The drive to find alternative sources of energy finds its origin in the Paris Agreement, signed by 196 parties at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2015. This agreement seeks to limit the global increase in temperature to less than 2 °C by the end of the century. Achieving this target depends on reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and realising carbon-neutrality.
Solar, wind and hydropower
Although South Africa has made huge strides to enter the renewable energy sector through the introduction of solar, wind and hydropower over recent years, there are many arguments in favour of adding hydrogen to the list of alternatives. At the same time, this will contribute to establishing South Africa’s hydrogen economy. Most of the challenges facing the large-scale adoption of renewable energy relate to the efficient storage and transportation of clean energy.
Hydrogen – particularly green hydrogen – is exceptionally energy dense per unit of weight compared to other fuels. This facilitates its storage and transportation. Through its direct combustion, coupled with its use in fuel cells and as an industrial feedstock, it can be produced cost effectively to support decarbonisation, and presents enormous opportunities for South Africa in the global carbon economy. Green hydrogen, as an alternative fuel source, is produced in a sustainable manner with zero emission of carbon. It is mainly produced through the electrolysis of water. Since South Africa is a water-scarce country, use is increasingly being made of desalinated water for this purpose. An additional contribution to the economy is the beneficiation of the country’s platinum group metals (PGMs) that are used in the manufacture of the hydrogen fuel cells.
South African National Energy Development Institute
The South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI), an agency established by Parliament to direct, monitor and conduct energy research and development, and to promote technology innovation to establish the efficient use of energy, has identified the University of Pretoria as a leader in research into energy efficiency and the integration of renewable energy into the national energy grid.
In partnership with Bambili Energy, one of the country’s leading manufacturers of hydrogen fuel cells and their subcomponents, the Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering is building capacity to safely install, operate, maintain and refuel the hydrogen fuel cell systems on which the creation of a hydrogen economy depends. This training, launched at the end of 2020, is aimed at developing competent, capable and work-ready technicians for the deployment, installation and maintenance of hydrogen fuel cell systems. Some of the graduates of this training have gone on to complete internships at Bambili Energy, and they are currently employed in the organisation’s maintenance team.
According to Professor Raj Naidoo, Head of the Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering, training such as this will contribute to positioning South Africa in the emerging global hydrogen economy. Not only is it aligned with the University’s commitment to ensure a safer, more sustainable way of life for the next generation, but also forms part of Cabinet’s long-term national strategy to participate in international hydrogen and fuel cell technology platforms.
A webinar presented by the University of Pretoria on 9 November 2022 will consider the creation of a South African hydrogen economy for energy security and sustainability. It will include a panel discussion featuring prominent role players from academia, government and industry.