The benefits the hydrogen economy could have in attracting investment and creating jobs in eThekwini were discussed during a webinar held by the eThekwini Energy Office.
Sbu Ntshalintshali from the Energy Office said the Municipality is making progress in the implementation of the Energy Transition Policy which outlines the long-term energy security. He said hydrogen could be used to complement variable solar and wind and bolster the City’s sale of electricity to other regions. This could also emerge as a new export commodity as the demand for low-carbon hydrogen increases globally.
Ntshalintshali said this highly strategic project is supported by the national government, the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government, and state-owned enterprises. It will also provide more diversity in the liquid fuels industry.
“We are expecting strong pipeline projects which will be launched in the financial year. These will deliver the demand of 500kT by 2030, generate approximately 10 000 jobs, and attract $500million in investment. The Municipality’s vision is a future in which the hydrogen ecosystem provides economic benefits to eThekwini Municipality through export revenue, creating sustainable jobs, supporting the energy transition across power generation, heating, transport, and industry, improving energy system resilience, and increasing consumer choices.”
Nick Ash, from ARUP, discussed the results from the modeling exercise which focused on the energy ecosystem. The exercise investigated the cost-effectiveness of an energy system rooted in circular economy principles with cross-cutting benefits. Scenarios from the exercise indicate that the hydrogen economy will increase significantly by 2050. Ash highlighted the three main zones of economic activity. He cautioned that the future of eThekwini’s domestic fuel production capacity is uncertain. There could be an opportunity to produce synthetic fuels using waste streams and hydrogen, he added.
An interactive question and answer session raised queries if the hydrogen economy will be able to absorb job losses from refineries closing and the next steps to translate modelling exercise into potential economic value and job creation.
Hydrogen is a fuel that’s rapidly becoming a mainstream energy commodity that drives transformation in key sectors of the economy. Hydrogen fuel cells are now powering buses and next generation cars. And given how many homes and industries rely on natural gas networks for heating and cooking, the possible shift to hydrogen could accelerate the new energy economy and decarbonisation.