By Gert Jacobie (Walvis Bay).
NAMIBIA’S work on an H2 energy plan and the consequent development, and participation in the Southern Africa Energy Corridor and a lucrative international export market for green-based commodities, is already well advanced and pending project approvals for the unlocking of a future energy export-driven economy.
In short, Namibia must use its infinite solar power, wind, biomass and space and access to a long Atlantic coastline, to produce, store and export the cheapest possible green hydrogen-based commodities.
Green power that can be generated from local renewable and carbon free resources can now be “mined” and converted to an export commodity, and transported beyond the stretch of limits of physical electrical transmission lines.
Cardinal to the H2 program, is how well it aligns with and meets the objectives of the Harambee II development plan to save Namibia from a period of economic crises and disaster.
Harambee (derived from the Swahili word meaning to move together in one direction) became Namibia’s “Marchall Plan” to turn a long period of economic decline, drought and the effects of the Covid pandemic into a positive direction and become the driver of a modern economy, which also embraces the ambitions of a global fight against pollution and global warming.
The Harambee plan, as part of its DNA, provides for helping to achieve the targets of zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Central to the thinking of the powerful team of executives appointed by President Hage Geingob for the task, is how this new green industry can free Namibia’s 2.6 million people from poverty, create dignified jobs and promote education.
Reuters reported from Paris on October 4, already, that governments should make greater investment in hydrogen production and storage facilities. They report that up to US$1200 billion will be needed to support targets of net-zero emissions by 2050.
“Efforts must be accelerated to establish hydrogen in more sectors and to produce it cheaper,” an International Energy Agency (IEA) report said.
Reuters also quotes from the IEA report that most hydrogen produced is made from fossil fuels, causing about 900 million tonnes of carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere.
The use of green energy for the electrolysis process to produce hydrogen and oxygen from water as affordable as possible is uppermost in researchers minds as science in this field is developing.
In September, Namibia received several project proposals to produce green hydrogen-based commodities along the coast south of Lüderitz.
The projects are now being evaluated by experts and an announcement is awaited. It is expected that the projects will be awarded during COP26 in early November in Glasgow, Scotland.
Reuters further reports from the IEA report that 17 governments have already developed hydrogen strategies and that 20 governments have announced they are working on their plans.
In 2019, only three countries announced their intentions.
Namibia has joined the community of nations that have adopted the green H2 strategy as future development of clean energy resources.
For Namibia, there is the prospect of unprecedented development in the port city of Lüderitz, the development of the world’s first “green” zinc mines near Rosh Pinah, the export of electricity to the Southern African Electricity Pool, the export of green hydrogen-based commodities such as green ammonia to the region, Europe and elsewhere (and the earning of foreign exchange), and the associated development of disadvantaged communities in the South of the country.
While Namibia’s national power provider continues its own developments in order to fulfill its mandate as a power supplier to the country, the young democracy’s economic base is broadening and Namibia is trying not to keep all its eggs in one basket.
A Memorandum of Understanding recently signed between Namibia, the United States and Botswana envisages a 5000MW solar farm on the border between Namibia and Botswana.
Namibia itself consumes barely 4,5TWh per year and Botswana is also a relatively light power consumer. The generation capacity of the border solar farm provides export capacity to a partnership between the two countries. South Africa finds itself in a serious power crisis that is growing and hampering its giant industries.
The country is also under pressure to move away from its expensive and inefficient coal-fired power plants and make its contribution to global stabilization.
To be a role player in the production of green hydrogen-based commodities and to know and understand the modalities of its production, storage, transport and application, Namibians will need to be properly trained for it.
The German government announced that it was entering into an agreement with the University of Namibia to support fields of study in the development of green energy fields. Several international and private developers have also signed up to work along UNAM’s green hydrogen research institute.
Namibia has huge potential to tap into its God-given natural and renewable resources, to not only de-carbonise the Namibian economy, but also contribute to the de-carbonisation globally. Namibia has been noticed for this potential by various developers, from various countries.
It is thus no surprise that the international fraternity is lining up to form partnerships with Namibia to tap into our huge potential, such as what we witness in a Joint Communiqué between Namibia and Germany, as well as recent meetings between the presidents of Namibia and South Africa.
Any partnership between countries will only be sustainable if it is mutually beneficial and, as it is not exclusive and does not prevent Namibia from having more options globally.
Namibians following the news on the transformation of energy-resources would have realised that the tempo of conversation regarding especially hydrogen-based energy resources are picking up ahead of COP26, which are slated for the first week in November in Grasgow.
That is where Namibians will hear more about the country’s share in a new economy that is, according the International Energy Agency, ready to create millions of new employment opportunities.