Green hydrogen refers to hydrogen that has been produced with the help of renewable energies, which makes it a form of energy that does not emit climate warming gases. As such, green hydrogen is seen as one of the crucial enablers of the global transition towards sustainability and green economies.
Hydrogen is emerging as one of the leading options for storing energy from renewable sources, also because hydrogen-based fuels can potentially transport energy from renewable sources over long distances.
World’s biggest hydrogen trucks start operating
On Friday, the 6th of May 2022, global mining group Anglo American revealed the world's largest green hydrogen-powered truck in South Africa. Anglo American aims to replace 40 diesel-powered trucks, which each consume around one million litres of fossil fuel per year, at the Mogalakwena mine in the northeast of the country. This hydrogen powered trucks will be able to carry up to 315 tonnes of ore each. Neither the operation of trucks using hydrogen, nor the production of hydrogen using renewable energies emit any climate-warming gases into the atmosphere.
The project called NuGen is expected to be completely implemented by 2026. It utilises electricity from a solar power plant to power an electrolyser that splits water and converts it into hydrogen which will fuel the trucks. With this project, Anglo American takes a first step towards its aim of making eight of its mines carbon neutral by 2030. Further, the company aims to transform all its other worldwide operations, including mining iron ore, copper and platinum, into carbon neutral operations by 2040.
The initiative comes following rising pressure on the global mining sector to cut its emissions and become greener. Initially, the companies’ idea was turned down by several equipment manufacturers, forcing it to tackle the conversion of its truck fleet into hydrogen powered trucks by itself. While in the beginning, three years ago, people did not believe in the idea, according to Anglo American, its vision now is to spread it across its business as well as the whole mining industry.
Boost for South Africa’s Green Economy
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called the new developments in green hydrogen powered trucks a “giant leap” for South Africa’s hydrogen economy. Anglo American’s plans to achieve a net zero target for 2040 is in line with the government's target for 2050.
According to Ramaphosa, the NuGen project acts as proof of the huge potential of green energy within the mining sector. The sector is one of the largest sectors in South Africa and as such an important pillar of the economy. With the implementation of green hydrogen technologies in the mining sector, there is reasonable hope of introducing it in other industries as well.
Future of Green Energy in South Africa
South Africa is currently in transition to becoming a green economy. In order to move to a renewable energy-based electricity system in the long term, South Africa should increase its renewable energy network by 3.000 to 4.000 MW annually according to Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula.
This ambitious goal entails the gradual phasing out of coal in a structured manner, as well as repurposing them to create jobs and opportunities for local communities that are mostly impacted by this transition.
Jobs will also be created in installation and construction as well as long-term jobs in the large-scale production of renewable energies such as wind and solar. The envisioned pace of the transition would enable South Africa to achieve the necessary economies of scale that will allow producers of wind and solar power to manufacture the parts needed for wind and solar energy generation on a large scale. It would also provide much needed energy security for the countries strained power supply system.
According to the Ministry of Transport, the transition to a green economy requires support from both the public and the private sectors. Currently, the ministry is working on equipping the Automotive industry in South Africa to move towards a greener transport system including electric vehicles.