Namibia: Green Hydrogen Production will Have Something To Do with Land and Water

Namibia: Green Hydrogen Production will Have Something To Do with Land and Water
Namibia: Green Hydrogen Production will Have Something To Do with Land and Water

Africa-Press – Namibia. IN HIS NEW Year’s message, our president said that his trips abroad are evidence of his progress in marketing Namibia’s potential for green hydrogen production. He alluded to how the green hydrogen industry would strengthen our country’s renewable energy footprint, leading to competitive electricity tariffs.

Some people understand where the president is coming from when he talks about green hydrogen. I also think that many of us don’t get what this whole green hydrogen production in Namibia is all about. This is understandable. It is something new. Even if you already know about green hydrogen, it will have something to do with land and water.

What is green hydrogen production? Hydrogen is one of the most abundant gases. It is the most typical gas (up to 75%) on Earth and plays an essential role in sustaining life. It is capable of being used for energy. It exists in plants, and is naturally part of water. So, to harness it for making energy, it must be extracted from natural gas, but most abundantly from water. The technology for generating hydrogen from water is hydrogen production because it separates hydrogen from oxygen (another gas found in water).

If this process is successfully done using electricity obtained from renewable sources, it will produce energy without emitting carbon dioxide or CO2 (a gas the world has agreed to reduce for various health reasons). The hydrogen produced through this process is what we call green hydrogen. Hence, green hydrogen production.

Why should we support the president’s green hydrogen vision? According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the global energy demand will increase by 30% by 2040. Based on this data, Namibia’s move to green hydrogen production is a good investment that may put it ahead of other countries in Africa in the energy race.

The IEA has also noted that the method for green energy production would save up to 830 million tonnes of CO2 annually emitted when the same gas is produced using fossil fuels. Based on this, Namibia’s embrace of green hydrogen production is a responsible investment that may put it ahead of others as a highly responsibly governed country in global affairs.

QUESTIONS The president showed clear awareness of these advantages when he noted that “we shall secure the first N$100 million in concession fees from the preferred bidder, bringing immediate relief to the fiscus”.

This makes political and fiscal sense. Hundreds of thousands of jobs (something we urgently need in Namibia) will be created. Despite all the expected benefits, there is still a need for caution. Common sense teaches that all good things come at a price. History has taught us that the fear of consequences as far as land is concerned (or the dispossessory consequences of land use) is the beginning of wisdom.

The underlying question is, how will the land implications of green hydrogen production be managed? Not much is being said about space (land/water use) and infrastructure costs. Experience from countries already engaged in green hydrogen production shows its negative aspects.

On the safety side, green hydrogen is highly volatile and flammable. Extensive safety measures are needed to prevent leakages or explosions. Namibia requires infrastructure for the storage, dispensing, transportation, and delivery of green hydrogen. This would mean increased land-use activities. For instance, the Fukushima green hydrogen plant in Japan, which produces approximately 900 tonnes annually, is located on 45 acres of land. So, there is a need to prepare against land (including water) grabbing scenarios by the successful bidders or producers in their quest to secure abundant production space for green hydrogen.

Water supply and electricity are critical considerations for hydrogen production. This means that green hydrogen production (as a part of water use) could become a part of water resource management. COMMUNITIES

The World Future Council (WFC), a German non-profit organisation, in one of its policy briefs in 2021, emphasised the importance of engaging communities in green hydrogen visions in Africa. It noted that a lack of proper social and environmental impact assessments (and strict sustainability standards) could lead to land-use conflicts.

The WFC stated that “Germany and other European states are particularly looking towards establishing hydrogen production in African countries for cheap imports”. They further noted that with all eyes on Africa’s abundant renewable energy resources, these countries “risk bypassing international responsibilities and prolonging energy poverty”.

With this in mind, our government must ensure that Namibia benefits from the green hydrogen arrangement with bidders in the long run. This requires a reassessment of existing land policies (with linkages to green hydrogen production) to grasp their potential synergies and challenges in specific regions, such as the use of land and water resources.

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