South Africa has the natural and technological resources to dominate green hydrogen generation globally.
Hydrogen economy value chains can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create jobs. Masdar-ADSW reported that the African hydrogen industry might provide 1.9 to 3.7 million jobs and 60 billion dollars in GDP by 2050.
The hydrogen economy’s skills demands and growing green hydrogen skills gap are ignored. So, we must prioritise green hydrogen workforce training to be ready when this renewable energy technology arrives. South Africa’s hydrogen economy must first invest in skills development and labour training. This prevents imports of vital talents.
CHIETA’s “Top 10 Skills in Hydrogen” roadmap identifies 17 future capabilities for success in the hydrogen economy. By 2025, it will train 1,000 chemical engineers as hydrogen systems engineers.
Hydrogen infrastructure development drives growth #2. Hydrogen projects must move from pre-feasibility and feasibility to funding. South African hydrogen projects need speed. South Africa’s hydrogen economy may be slowed by sluggish hydrogen infrastructure initiatives.
To grow the hydrogen economy, enabling laws, policy, and regulations are needed. A “Minister of Hydrogen” may have led the creation of an enabling environment and legislation. We need innovative laws that alleviate all hydrogen economy risks, not crippling ones. South Africa requires a hydrogen policy and uniform certificates. Thirdly, risk mitigation legislation, policies, and regulations drive growth.
Government support schemes are the fourth driver of rapid and considerable hydrogen economy job creation. South Africa should create a Hydrogen Innovation Fund, Hydrogen Bank, and SMME hydrogen support fund. Moroccan SMMEs produce about 30% of hydrogen. Hydrogen assistance programmes from other countries are not new. In South Africa, purposeful and intentional government support would localise hydrogen opportunities.
More coordination and cross-sector collaboration accelerate hydrogen growth sixth. Profit maximisation precludes private sector collaboration. Government should coordinate hydrogen economy stakeholders. Government should allow organised collaboration amongst the hydrogen value chain’s major sectors—energy, chemicals, transport, agriculture, and mining—to promote growth and development. The sector and education and training authorities (SETAs) have led skills development and training via collaboration agreements between CHIETA and EWSETA and CHIETA and TETA.
Reduce hydrogen’s carbon footprint in addition to these five growth factors. Hydrogen energy emits carbon. Hydrogen production can emit a lot of carbon, depending on its stage (installation, distribution, etc.) and type (green, grey, blue etc.) All parties must create a zero-carbon hydrogen production plan.
These five growth drivers would create a job-creating hydrogen economy in South Africa within a few years. Hydrogen is essential to a successful mixed energy programme in South Africa. Hydrogen projects must be implemented quickly with a clear coordination plan that prioritises teamwork. South Africa should take advantage of hydrogen before it’s too late.