South Africa is experiencing a continuing energy crisis, and with no end in sight, it is time to consider extending the country’s present alternative energy sources.
The University of Pretoria has made energy one of its main research areas to address complicated social concerns like these.
The Department of Electrical, Electronic, and Computer Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment, and Information Technology is optimising and developing new energy and power systems for South Africa. The department is focusing on establishing capability to develop South Africa’s hydrogen potential and creating a local hydrogen economy for energy security and sustainability. Coal, oil, and natural gas have long provided heat and power for homes and businesses, but they are getting harder to extract economically.
Their carbon emissions are causing widespread worry for the environment and human health. At the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference, 196 parties signed the Paris Accord to find alternate energy sources.
The Paris Accord aims to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees by the end of the century by reducing fossil fuel use. Solar, wind, and hydropower have transformed South Africa’s renewable energy industry. But, building South Africa’s hydrogen economy adds hydrogen to this list. Hydrogen is more energy dense than other fuels, making it easier to store and transport.
Most of the barriers to large-scale renewable energy adoption are related to energy storage and transit. Direct combustion, fuel cell reaction, or industrial feedstock can produce hydrogen cheaply for decarbonization. Its sustainable production and low carbon emissions make it a promising alternative fuel for South Africa. Since South Africa is water-scarce, desalinated water is used locally.
Beneficiation of platinum group metals (PGMs) used in hydrogen fuel cells boosts the economy. The South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI) has named the University of Pretoria a pioneer in energy efficiency research and renewable energy grid integration.
Thus, in partnership with Bambili Energy, one of the country’s leading manufacturers of hydrogen fuel cells and their subcomponents, the University of Pretoria’s Department of Electrical, Electronic, and Computer Engineering is building capacity to safely install, operate, maintain, and refuel the systems needed to create a hydrogen economy.
By the end of 2020, it began training hydrogen fuel cell system installers, maintainers, and deployers. This training led to internships at Bambili Energy and jobs in the maintenance team. Professor Raj Naidoo, Head of the University of Pretoria’s Department of Electrical, Electronic, and Computer Engineering, believes this training would help South Africa compete in the global hydrogen economy. The South African cabinet’s long-term vision to participate in international hydrogen and fuel cell technology platforms aligns with the University’s commitment to a safer, more sustainable future.