Green hydrogen: Africa can break Europe’s dependence on Russian oil

By David Whitehouse
Posted on Tuesday, 8 March 2022 16:43

A hydrogen fuel pump nozzle is pictured at a factory of German industrial gases maker Linde in Vienna
A hydrogen fuel pump nozzle is pictured at a factory of German industrial gases maker Linde in Vienna July 14, 2014. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

Egypt is in pole position as a green hydrogen supplier as Europe seeks alternatives to Russian oil and gas, James Josling, board member of The Green Hydrogen Organisation (GH2), tells The Africa Report

“Green hydrogen rewrites the geopolitical map globally,” Josling says in Geneva. “Egypt is racing ahead to try to show progress.” The COP 27 meeting in Egypt in November could be the launchpad for the global green hydrogen industry, he adds.

The Egyptian government is planning three green hydrogen projects with a combined capacity of 300 megawatts in partnership with the private sector. It has signed a letter of intent with Germany’s Siemens, a cooperation agreement with Belgium’s DEME Group and a memorandum of understanding with Italy’s Eni to develop projects. The electricity ministry has said that the companies would be responsible for selling surplus hydrogen abroad.

Green hydrogen is made from splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen via process electrolysis, and using only renewable energy. Blue hydrogen, produced by using fossil fuel energy, does not have the same green credentials.

GH2 is a policy body which promotes green hydrogen adoption. It was set up in 2021 on the initiative of Australian billionaire Andrew Forrest, who originally wanted to find a way to decarbonise iron-ore operations at his Fortescue Metals business, and has former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull as its chairman. Josling says that green hydrogen has the potential to make up 30% to 40% of the global energy mix.

Some argue that Africa has historically been responsible for a very low share of emissions, and say Westerners are being hypocritical in asking African countries not to develop their fossil fuels. Josling points to the fact that after decades of fossil fuel exploitation in Africa, hundreds of millions of people remain without electricity.

  • “Clean electricity is the solution here,” he says. “There is no economic development without it. Green hydrogen can be developed much more inclusively” than fossil fuels.

Development standard

No matter what happens in Ukraine, European governments know there is no way back to relying on Russian oil and gas. “The Ukraine crisis has massively reinforced the opportunity for Africa,” Josling says. “Africa can become a leading exporter of green hydrogen and solve its own energy crisis.”

Josling points to the fact that sunshine levels in North Africa mean that a solar panel there has double the efficiency of a panel in Germany. But the green hydrogen market in Europe still needs policy support to grow, he says, and that will be the catalyst for investment decisions in Africa.

GH2 CEO Jonas Moberg is visiting governments in Germany and Norway this week to press the case for green hydrogen.

  • Germany, he says, knows that it needs “vast” amounts of renewable energy, and is investing in green hydrogen in Namibia.
  • Moberg also expects Italy to be among early buyers of renewable energy from North Africa. “It is happening, but it has to happen faster,” he says.
  • GH2 is now developing a standard for green hydrogen development, to cover areas such as maximum permitted emissions, and land and water use. The standard, which is now going through a consultation process, is planned to be launched in May.
  • GH2 is also planning to appoint a manager for Africa, Moberg adds.

Bottom line

GH2 sees green hydrogen as a solution for African energy needs as well as the global energy transition.

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