As Europe struggles to decarbonize its economy and wean itself off Russian oil and gas, one of the world’s sunniest and most arid nations is pitching itself to the continent as an answer to its problems.
A delegation from sub-Saharan Africa’s driest country has been touring Europe to tout their nation as a potential powerhouse of clean energy.
They say Namibia can produce so much solar power it is soon to be self-sufficient in electricity — and, by the end of the decade, could become an exporter of so-called “green hydrogen.”
“We came to Europe saying we have this amazing sun,” said James Mnyupe, economic adviser to the Namibian presidency.
He was in Rotterdam earlier this month for the World Hydrogen Summit trade fair, and on Wednesday was making a pitch in Paris ahead of a trip to Davos.
A huge, chiefly desert country in southwestern Africa, Namibia is perfect for erecting gigantic solar farms, whose power can be used to help make hydrogen, which in turn can be used for fuel or converted into ammonia to make fertilizer.
Producing hydrogen entails splitting water into its component parts of hydrogen and oxygen, using an energy-gobbling technique called electrolysis.
Namibia says it is in a unique position to make the process clean.
Boasting a vast coastline on the South Atlantic, it would use sea water that is desalinated and then electrolyzed using clean renewables.
The hydrogen would be piped to a terminal and then exported, “to Rotterdam, Germany or South Africa,” as well as used at home, Mnyupe said.
The EU plans to produce 10 million tonnes of green hydrogen from its own resources by 2030, but it is also counting on 10 million tonnes of imports.
“We understand we cannot produce all this hydrogen in Europe domestically — it’s impossible... That’s why the prime partner is Africa,” said Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, secretary-general of the European trade association Hydrogen Europe.
The Europe-Namibia energy connection took an important step forward in November last year. Namibia selected Hyphen Hydrogen Energy, a joint venture between German renewables group Enertrag and investment vehicle Nicholas Holdings as its preferred bidder for a solar farm and green hydrogen project in Tsau Khaeb in the southwest of the country.
If all goes according to schedule, the first phase of electricity production would become operational from 2026. At full peak, the site could generate 300,000 tonnes of green hydrogen annually.
Yet the investment at Tsau Khaeb also gives an idea of the funds that Namibia needs to lure if it hopes to become a hydrogen giant.
Hyphen on its Web site puts the overall commitment at US$9.4 billion.
That figure compares with Namibia’s annual GDP of US$10.7 billion, World Bank data showed.
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