1. The African Hydrogen Partnership

The AHP is the only continent-wide African non-profit trade association dedicated to the development of green and natural
HYDROGEN resources and related technologies in AFRICA.

The AHP and its member organizations support and strive to achieve the climate targets of the Paris Agreement as well as the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We aim to reduce carbon dioxide emissions while minimizing the impact on bio habitat and biodiversity.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated in 2018 that the World needs to reach net zero emissions by 2050, if it is to reach the Paris Agreement target of limiting global warming to 1.5C. The necessary transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy is going to be a hugely complex, time consuming and costly process and time is absolutely of the essence. Strong PARTNERSHIPS and alliances across regions, business sectors, industries and different technologies will be needed to ensure the necessary scale, momentum and diversity of thought which will be essential. Differing environments and issues will require different solutions and it will often be desirable for different clean technologies to work together.

2. The Global South - Constraints and Necessity

Approximately 70% of the global population lives in the Global South. By demographic and economic developments, the Global South’s contributions to and share of the global economy will continue to grow. The Global North is technologically, industrially and economically more advanced than the Global South which implies that the Global South needs less electricity on a per capita basis than the Global North. However, the electricity generation and distribution capacities in the Global South are often seriously inadequate. In Africa hundreds of millions of people do not have access to electricity and power generation capacity in many regions of Africa is often less than 2% of the electricity generation capacity of, say, France or Germany.

The lack of technological and financial resources and capabilities required for developing electric infrastructure has led to the widespread use of diesel generators for primary, as well as backup, electricity. Estimates indicate that Nigeria has a total diesel generator capacity of at least 40 GW. To put this into perspective, the total electricity generation capacity of Poland is approximately 36 GW and the UK has a capacity of roughly 76 GW.

The development and maintenance of the electric grid are possibly the greatest challenges for the electrification of many regions in the Global South. And it is not realistic to expect that sufficient electric grid coverage will be developed before 2050. The electrification of many sectors in the North has gained a lot of momentum recently and this momentum is likely to increase. The speed of electrification and generally of the transition away from fossil fuels to renewables in the Global North could have significant repercussions in several sectors and regions in Africa.

A few considerations associated with the transportation sector might illustrate the risks. The numbers of used ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicles available for export from the North to Africa will decline and be replaced by BEV (Battery Electric Vehicles). BEV will be of little use in Africa without sufficient infrastructure (including for generation and distribution of electricity). At the same time the funds for fossil fuel projects are expected to decline which will impact the price and availability of refined fuels or natural gas required for ICE vehicles. The transportation sector of sub-Saharan Africa is likely to be squeezed from several sides in a few years from now. 

Many ideas, concepts and models which are feasible for the economies of the Global North might not necessarily work for the Global South. The electrification of many sub-sectors of the transportation sector of Africa using BEV is not possible without an electric grid. People in sub-Saharan Africa will need energy and transport. If there is no electric grid, people will develop decentralized solutions similar to the diesel generator market at the moment and hydrogen and its derivatives are likely to be a substantial part of the solution.

Although many processes associated with hydrogen are not energy efficient in comparison with other renewable technologies, constraints and restrictions will give hydrogen a greater importance in the Global South than in the Global North.

3. Hard-to-abate Sectors

The relative value of exports of African nations is generally small in comparison to the exports of industrialized nations. African nations primarily export minerals, agricultural produce and earn hard currencies with tourism. Total Imports into individual African countries tend to be more than their exports and the economic growth is primarily based on domestic markets. Hard-to-abate sectors like mining, agriculture, the production of (basic) construction materials, fuels for shipping and aviation, and heavy load, long haul transport are of greater economic importance proportionately for African countries than for industrialized nations.

Due to the limited availability and capacity of the electric grid and the economic importance of hard-to-abate sectors where hydrogen is unavoidable, hydrogen will be a necessity for decarbonizing major parts of sub-Saharan Africa’s economy.

4. Produce the Hydrogen Where it is Going to be Consumed

Due to the low volumetric energy density, the small size of the hydrogen molecules and other factors, it is challenging and costly to transport hydrogen. If low-cost hydrogen can be produced broadly where it is going to be consumed, transporting hydrogen over long distances will not be needed which will make the hydrogen less expensive for the local off-takers and end consumers.

It is not unrealistic to assume that some heavy and energy-intensive businesses might relocate their production facilities from the Global North to the Global South, including Africa, in the near future in order, amongst other factors, to take advantage of the availability of hydrogen at a competitive price.

5. Reducing Costly Imports

Renewable hydrogen could address many of the economic and environmental challenges Africa faces. Producing and consuming clean, renewable and sustainable green hydrogen would reduce or replace imports of fossil-based fuels and chemicals. This would reduce dependency on foreign currencies and help improve trade balances.

The savings from this and from reducing pollution and other negative externalities, as well as socio-economic benefits, could also fund new hydrogen programs.