South Africa will soon start manufacturing its own hydrogen fuel cells, a move that has been over a decade in the making. This will open up the possibility of a new renewable source of energy for the country.
In a response to the debate on the State of the Nation Address 2021 on Thursday [February 18] President Cyril Ramaphosa stated that for over a decade, government has been working with various partners, including the private sector and academia, to develop hydrogen fuel cell and lithium battery storage technologies.
This work serves two important developmental objectives – it offers the possibility of a new, renewable source of energy; while establishing new uses and new markets for the platinum group metals that are abundant in the country.
Hydrogen and fuel cell technologies, which use platinum, offer an alternative source of clean electricity, while hydrogen allows for energy to be stored and delivered in a usable form.
Through its Hydrogen South Africa Strategy, government and its partners have successfully deployed hydrogen fuel cells to provide electricity in schools and to field hospitals established as part of the country’s COVID-19 response.
Now, after a decade of investment, the country is ready to move from research and development to manufacturing and commercialisation.
“We are establishing a Platinum Valley as an industrial cluster bringing various hydrogen applications in the country together to form an integrated hydrogen ecosystem,” said Ramaphosa.
“This initiative will identify concrete project opportunities for kick-starting hydrogen cell manufacturing in promising hubs. It will facilitate the commercialisation of home-grown intellectual property. It presents an opportunity to build a local skills base and lead the country into a new era of energy generation and demand for its platinum group metals.”
Through this initiative, South African skills, technology and expertise are being used to extract greater economic value – in the form of new jobs, industrial development and cleaner energy – from a mineral that the country has in substantial quantities.
Government will develop measures that should be taken to ensure that innovators are supported in local innovation and research.