The Role of Hydrogen in Decarbonizing Transportation in Africa
The contributions of transportation to global warming seem insignificant as the focus is mostly on the obvious sources of carbon emissions, such as observed in industries.
Decarbonising the earth cannot be complete without considering the transportation sector, as it accounts for 20% of the greenhouse gases emitted. Based on this analysis, the carbon emissions from transport can be likened to burning fossil fuels inside two Olympic swimming pools per minute of the year.
To limit global warming to the estimated 1.5oC, decarbonising transport is cogent.
Africa remains one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to the impact of climate change. Her urbanisation has been projected to reach a 75% increase by 2050.
The inhabitants of this continent will continue to move to the urban regions for greener pastures. In congruent with this gradual development, more vehicles will be purchased to meet the ever-increasing demand for mobility.
Consequently, the emission of greenhouse gases increases. Modern Transportation in Africa is characterised by using cars, buses, trucks, trains, planes, and boats. Each of these means is mostly powered by fossil fuels which release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
There are 72 million vehicles in use in Africa, and the transport emission rate increases by 7% annually. Over the years, a cogent concern has been the decline in the quality of fuel supplied as they do not meet the emission standard.
The poor quality of fuel, operation of ageing vehicles, and insufficient roadworthy tests are contributors to transport emissions.
Following the pressing need to rapidly reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by 2030, hydrogen development for low-emission road transport can create a viable alternative to the dominated fossil fuel transport system in Africa.
Hydrogen is now seen as an important resource in the economy globally. It has, over the years, been used to produce fertilisers and refineries to reduce the sulfur-content improving production quality.
The potential of hydrogen in decarbonising power generation and helping the world achieve the envisioned sustainability has it touted as the fuel of the future.
According to Australia’s Long Team Emissions Reduction Plan, to achieve a net zero carbon emission by 2050, technologies for utilising hydrogen plays a major role in her quest to become a green energy superpower.
The National Hydrogen Strategy referred to decarbonisation in transportation.
Africa has abundant energy resources, making it a potential continent for producing and distributing eco-friendly hydrogen. Many African countries have impressive wind and solar resources, not leaving out the untouched hydropower potential based on the present massive water bodies on the continent.
Although Hydrogen has gradually found its place in the continent, it is predominantly produced from blue energy sources (Non-Renewable Sources).
The implication of blue hydrogen is the release of carbon into the atmosphere. Recently, renewable electricity-powered green hydrogen makes up 4% of the world’s hydrogen production. The is relatively low, and the IEA report stated that the cost of producing hydrogen from renewable energy sources is high.
The pace at which hydrogen infrastructure development is established inhibits the massive adoption.
With the abundant solar and wind energy resources in Africa, solar or wind energy can be used to produce the electricity required to separate hydrogen from water.
Moreover, the price of solar panels is plummeting, and the viability of hydrogen generation from solar energy is increasing. This hydrogen can be stored as liquid or gas. Hydrogen-powered vehicles can be filled similarly to fossil fuel-powered vehicles in hydrogen stations.
The only emission from this process is water vapour which is eco-friendly against the exhaust fumes from fossil fuels.
Although sustainable transportation using hydrogen is somewhat complex and can only be achieved with vehicles that can operate with clean fuel sources, the deployment is viable in Africa.
Ayodeji Stephen (The Electricity Hub)