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Go Green with GBO: Know the programme bringing affordable clean electricity to South Africa

Banner emphasised that the solution to the nation's electricity problems might lie in green hydrogen or hydrogen produced from low-carbon or renewable energy

In an effort to provide South Africa and the rest of the continent with affordable green hydrogen electricity, Go Green Africa and the University of Cambridge have partnered on a research initiative.

Iain Banner, the creator of Go Green Africa, made this claim at the Enlit Africa Conference in Cape Town during his “call to action” speech.

Based in Cape Town, “Go Green Africa” is a network of businesses and individuals dedicated to hastening the green economy’s transition across Africa fairly and inclusively.

Banner claims that for Africa to achieve net-zero status and have a sustainable economy that can offer all of its residents a high standard of living, the continent must embrace the global green revolution that is currently taking place.

He continued by saying that Go Green Africa had launched this initiative in Cape Town, first concentrating on the e-mobility industry.

Banner emphasised that the solution to the nation’s electricity problems might lie in green hydrogen or hydrogen produced from low-carbon or renewable energy.

The University of Cambridge contacted Banner a year ago with the idea of Go Green Africa working with Dr. Jonathan Bean, a physicist there who is researching the creation of inexpensive green hydrogen.

Dr. Bean is also the CEO of Materials Nexus, a biotechnology company, and is now working on innovative research that could lead to Go Green Africa providing affordable green hydrogen to Africa.

Currently, a kilogramme of green hydrogen costs between USD 7-8. It isn’t financially viable right now. Aside from that, though, few people discuss the necessity of the rare earth metal iridium for splitting an atom and separating hydrogen from oxygen, according to Banner.

However, to achieve that separation procedure, 40 times as much iridium, as has been found to date, would be required. Thus, Dr. Jonathan has joined forces with his Oxford University machine learning collaborator, and the two of them are currently hard at work rethinking green hydrogen to have electrons, not iridium, sit in the centre.

As a worldwide race to develop affordable green hydrogen unfolds, Banner said that although the globe is still in the early phases of adopting green hydrogen, numerous projects across the expanding value chain reveal tremendous prospects for the alternative power source.

One advantage of green hydrogen is that it is a clean energy source; the only waste it produces is water, according to the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) November 2022 publication, Green Hydrogen Commercialisation Strategy for SA. It is also energy that is renewable and derived from natural resources. The document states that green hydrogen has a lengthy storage and compression life in ad hoc tanks.

According to the DTI, energy experts have long held the view that green hydrogen holds the key to resolving Africa’s power issues. This belief stems from the continent’s considerable potential for producing renewable energy, especially from solar and wind power.

However, Banner pointed out that the high costs associated with generating green energy continue to be a significant obstacle because hydrogen must be produced using inputs like natural gas or renewable electricity, which drives up the price of hydrogen in tandem with these resources.

The DTI strategy document notes that governments throughout the world expect to have to provide short- to medium-term subsidies for green hydrogen to lower its cost and establish a sustainable market for the gas.

Banner states that a trial of the initiative will take place in Africa following its estimated 18-month duration with the University of Cambridge.

Imagine if Go Green Africa had been able to influence things so that green hydrogen would now only cost USD 2-3 per kilogram instead of USD 7-8. That way, a company like Sasol could run on green hydrogen and South Africa would instantly become green. Go Green Africa is focusing on that.

According to Banner, Go Green Africa members get together for frequent meetings and brainstorming sessions to discuss ways to advance the project.

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