Diamond fever is long gone in the hinterland of Lüderitz, a port town in southern Namibia.
Where the German colonial rulers once established a restricted area in order to search for diamonds according to their plan, today there are endless, almost deserted lands. But a new fever has gripped southern Namibia: green hydrogen.
After all, as President Hage Geingob likes to say, the country has “world-class renewable energy resources”. And he wants to use it – soon with German help too. The question remains as to who is really helping whom here.
Germany plans to invest up to €40 million (US$47 million) in a partnership with Namibia for a feasibility study and the first pilot projects. In return, German companies and scientists must play a “privileged role” in the world of green hydrogen in Namibia. A “powerful strategic partnership” is emerging, according to Federal Research Minister Anja Karliczek, “which can shape the global energy market of tomorrow”.
Namibia is predestined for green hydrogen in many ways.
With 300 days of sunshine and over 3,000 hours of sunshine, it is spoiled by solar power even by African standards, Germany does not get half of it. There would be enough space, as Namibia is one of the least populated countries in Africa.
The wind is not lacking either, at least on the coast in the south of the country. And from all that renewable electricity, water can then be broken down into oxygen and hydrogen through electrolysis.
The water needed should come from desalination plants, southern Namibia is dry. There are also ports for the transport of liquefied hydrogen.
“The country can become a global player in the production of green hydrogen,” says Minister Karliczek. A kilogramme of Namibian hydrogen could cost between 1.50 and two euros to produce. “A leading figure in the world,” says Minister Karliczek. It’s hardly anywhere so cheap.
Some have already seen this potential. The port of Rotterdam, for example, which wants to become the European hub for the importation of hydrogen. Or project developers like the Australian Fortescue Future Industries or CWP Global. However, Namibia has yet to enter into such a partnership with Germany – regardless of the German colonial past, which was overshadowed by the Herero and Nama genocide.
Namibia itself is hoping for a whole new era in its economic development: the government estimates the volume of investments at US$6 billion to US$8 billion. This would correspond to about two-thirds of the annual gross national product.
“This is an opportunity to industrialise this country,” said Mr James Mnyupe, economic advisor to the President.
Not only green hydrogen, but also green ammonia can be produced in large quantities. And this can not only be used in fertilisers, but it is also an interesting reserve of energy: in the form of ammonia, energy can be transported more easily over long distances because the substance is easier to liquefy. And that as far as Europe, enthuses Mr Mnyupe.
The agreement between the two countries is a huge opportunity, says Mr Stefan Kaufmann, responsible for hydrogen at the German Ministry of Research. “Namibia can become an energy exporting country, Germany can secure Namibian hydrogen.”
And at the same time, German companies could provide the associated technology. If all goes well, the first hydrogen could be exported as early as 2025.
For the federal government, green hydrogen is a key issue; practically all of Germany’s climate protection strategy is based on green energy. Because wherever electricity cannot replace fossil fuels – for example in electric motors for automobile traffic or in electric heat pumps for heating systems – green hydrogen must replace coal, petroleum and gas in the future.
It could replace coal and coke as reducing agents in steelworks and make the chemical industry climate-friendly. It could run trucks or locomotives using fuel cells and fly airplanes using synthetic fuels. Even ships would no longer have to depend on diesel.
The catch: only a part can be produced in Germany. In its hydrogen strategy, the federal government assumes a need of between 90 and 110 terawatt-hours of hydrogen by 2030. But only 14 terawatt-hours could be covered by domestic renewable energies. For the year 2045, when Germany ultimately no longer wishes to generate emissions, the Climate Neutrality Foundation estimates the need at 260 terawatt hours. But two-thirds should be imported. Berlin is currently feverishly looking for partners all over the world.Mr Mnyupe knows it: the government wants to make plans come true by the next climate conference in Glasgow in November – so that it can present them to the rest of the international community there. “We are one David among all the Goliaths,” he said. “But we can help a lot of people move closer to climate neutrality.” Germany too. – UK Parents Lounge