Mahlako A Phahla

Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa to the South Africa Green Hydrogen Summit, Century City, Cape Town

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29 November 2022 – 12:00pm

Programme Director,
Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, Ms Patricia De Lille,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Premier of the Western Cape, Mr Alan Winde,
Premier of the Northern Cape, Dr Zamani Saul,
Mr Till Mansmann, the Innovation Commissioner for Green Hydrogen at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research of Germany,
Executive Mayor of Cape Town, Geordin Hill-Lewis,
Ambassadors and High Commissioners,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the inaugural South Africa Green Hydrogen Summit.

This summit builds on a foundation laid by the Sustainable Infrastructure Development Symposium of 2021, which highlighted South Africa’s potential as a global exporter of green energy.

This Green Hydrogen Summit is taking place soon after the conclusion of the UN Climate Change Conference – or COP 27 – at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt.

These gatherings of world leaders are becoming ever more important and urgent given the devastation caused by the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather occurrences.

Low- and middle-income countries are most affected by these weather events, but are least equipped to adapt to the effects of climate change.

We therefore welcome the commitment at COP 27 to establish a fund to address climate damage suffered by developing economies.

South Africa used the platform of COP 27 to elaborate on our just green transition.

We recently released for public comment a Just Energy Transition Investment Plan as the basis for our pathway towards a low-carbon and climate resilient society.

According to the Plan, South Africa will need approximately $98 billion over the next five years to enable a just transition and achieve our ambitious emissions reduction targets.

Green hydrogen is identified in the Investment Plan as one of the four ‘big frontiers’ of a just energy transition, indicating that it has huge growth and investment potential.

Globally, the demand for green hydrogen and green hydrogen-based products, such as ammonia and synthetic jet fuels, is rising significantly.

This presents a unique opportunity for South Africa to link its mineral endowment with its renewable energy endowment to drive industrialisation.

At the same, it will create jobs, attract investment, bring development to rural provinces and support a just transition from fossil fuels.

This Summit is an opportunity to tell the South African story in this rapidly growing sector.

South Africa is not new to the green hydrogen conversation.

The Department of Science and Innovation has been leading research and innovation in green hydrogen in South Africa since 2007 through Hydrogen South Africa.

This was motivated in part by the potential impact that the transition away from the internal combustion engine to battery electric vehicles would have on the country’s platinum mining industry.

Together, South Africa and Zimbabwe hold over 90 per cent of the world’s known platinum group metal reserves.

Since 30 to 40 per cent of the supply goes into the production of catalytic converters for internal combustion vehicles, the initial focus of the research was on hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles as an alternative market to the internal combustion engine vehicle.

South Africa has existing and future potential to produce green hydrogen.

It is estimated that South Africa has the potential to produce 6 to 13 million tons of green hydrogen and derivatives a year by 2050.

To do so would require between 140 and 300 gigawatts of renewable energy.

The focus would be on green hydrogen exports, electrolyser and fuel cell production, and the manufacture of green steel, sustainable aviation fuel, ammonia, fertilizers and renewable energy components.

South Africa is an investment destination of choice.

The country has proven itself as a gateway to a dynamic continent with great prospects.

Africa is growing its output, is rapidly urbanising and has a young population.

South Africa leads the continent in advanced manufacturing, science and technology.

This country is a favourable, reliable and stable place to conduct business.

We are driving regulatory and legislative reform to make our economy more competitive, to attract more investment and to create more jobs.

South Africa has many inherent advantages that make it internationally competitive in the production of green hydrogen.

These include a world class endowment of both onshore wind and solar irradiation.

South Africa has a supportive legislative environment and experience in the deployment of renewable energy with the largest installed capacity of wind and solar power projects on the African continent.

Companies like Sasol and PetroSA have expertise in the production of syn¬thetic fuels like diesel, petrol and kerosene, as well as a range of chemical products.

South Africa already produces 2.4 million tons of grey hydrogen for domestic consumption.

Last year at the Sustainable Infrastructure Development Symposium, we began to profile the remarkable work that a number of large and emerging South African companies were doing in the green hydrogen sector.

These include the Boegoebaai Port and Rail project.

The project has been under development for over two decades and was gazetted as a Strategic Integrated Project in 2020.

Sasol and the Northern Cape provincial government have made significant progress on the master plan for a green hydrogen special economic zone, which aims to support 40 gigawatts of electrolyser capacity by 2050.

This would require approximately 80 gigawatts of renewable energy, which is almost double South Africa’s current installed electricity generation capacity.

Transnet has issued a request for proposals for the development of the port and rail project, which could see the port developed by 2028.

The Prieska Power Reserve Project, which is being led by Mahlako a Phala, a black women owned renewable energy developer, has made major progress over the last year.

It has received most of the required environmental approvals and its water use licence and has brought in the Industrial Development Corporation as an equity partner.

Another initiative is the development of a Hydrogen Valley that would link the three hydrogen hubs of Mogalakwena in Limpopo, Johannesburg and the Durban – Richards Bay hub.

This initiative is being led by the Department of Science and Innovation and supported by Anglo American, Bambili Energy and Engie.

Nine catalytic projects have been identified as part of this initiative, including the successful demonstration by Anglo American in May 2022 of the world’s first, largest mine haul truck to run on hydrogen and fuel cells.

The potential for South Africa to emerge as a significant player in the green hydrogen value chain is immense.

We look forward to welcoming more of the firms in the green hydrogen value chain and associated technologies into our market.

We hope to see these international firms partnering with South African firms as we increase our renewable energy footprint, green hydrogen manufacturing capability and local production of value added products.

South Africa is determined to become a world leader in green hydrogen.

We are determined to make full use of our substantial endowments to meet the challenges of climate change and to achieve a just transition that benefits all our people.

I wish you well in your deliberations.

I thank you.