In an intriguing development, German project developers are exploring the possibility of producing hydrogen for Europe’s industries by utilizing an existing power plant in Angola.
However, this raises questions about the electricity challenges faced by many households in Angola and how these seemingly contrasting realities can coexist.
Gauff, in collaboration with the Hamburg-based consulting firm Conjuncta and Angola’s state-owned energy company Sonangol, aims to convert a portion of the energy generated at the Laúca dam into hydrogen for export to Germany. This project, estimated to cost around €1 billion, could start delivering green hydrogen as early as 2025.
The venture in Angola serves as a crucial test run for Germany’s hydrogen initiatives, which are also expanding to other countries such as Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Namibia, and Morocco. Angola presents a unique advantage as the energy required for hydrogen production is already available. The surplus capacity of the Laúca power plant can potentially be harnessed for hydrogen production before other projects come online.
Despite having significant energy resources, Angola faces a sluggish demand due to the lack of industrial growth. As a result, ambitious hydropower projects like Laúca are underutilized. Gauff and its partners seek to convert 400 megawatts of excess energy into hydrogen, which would be sufficient to power approximately 450,000 German households.
The hydrogen production project in Angola has the potential to open up new economic opportunities for the country, which has traditionally relied heavily on oil and gas exports. Hydrogen could become a promising source of income and diversify Angola’s economy.
However, concerns arise regarding the energy access challenges faced by Angola’s population. Currently, only 42 percent of Angolans have access to electricity, and some regions remain completely unconnected to the grid. Sérgio Calundungo, the coordinator of the Political and Social Observatory in Angola, raises apprehensions about exporting green energy while significant portions of the population lack basic electricity access. He argues that the problem is not merely a lack of demand but also technological and economic hurdles that hinder access to electricity.
Calundungo emphasizes the importance of simultaneously improving energy access for the local population while exploring opportunities to export hydrogen abroad. Angola’s abundant energy resources can potentially support both goals.
To facilitate the export of hydrogen, Gauff plans to establish a hydrogen factory near a new port outside Luanda. With high-voltage lines connecting the Laúca power plant to a nearby substation and ample water supply for hydrogen production through electrolysis, the location appears ideal. The hydrogen will be converted into liquid ammonia, which can be transported by cargo ships. Upon arrival in Germany, the ammonia will be converted back into hydrogen for use in energy centers.
While the concept of converting hydrogen into ammonia and back may seem unconventional, Gauff believes it could help address Angola’s electricity challenges. Schneider highlights the desire to use sustainable energies to develop remote areas, making hydrogen a valuable resource.
As the project progresses, it will be crucial to strike a balance between meeting the energy needs of European industries and prioritizing energy access and development in Angola. The successful implementation of the hydrogen production project could bring economic benefits to Angola while also advancing Germany’s sustainable energy goals.