Namibia goes to Europe to sell its sun

As Europe struggles to decarbonise its economy and get rid of Russian oil and gas, one of the sunniest and driest nations in the world is presenting itself to the continent as an answer to its problems.

A delegation from the driest country in sub-Saharan Africa toured Europe to advertise their country as a potential source of clean energy.

They say Namibia can produce so much solar energy that it will soon be self-sufficient in terms of 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 fantastic sunshine,” said James Mnyupe, economic adviser to the Namibian presidency.

He was in Rotterdam earlier this month for the “World Hydrogen Summit” show and showed up in Paris on Wednesday before a trip to Davos.

A huge predominantly desert country in southwestern Africa with a population of just 2.5 million, Namibia is sunny and arid.

This makes it perfect for erecting gigantic solar parks, the energy of which can be used to help produce hydrogen, which in turn can be used as fuel or converted to ammonia to make fertilizer.

The production of hydrogen involves the splitting of water into its component parts of hydrogen and oxygen, using an energy-consuming technique called electrolysis.

Namibia claims it is in a unique position to clean up the process.

Boasting a vast coastline on the South Atlantic, it would use seawater that is desalinated and then electrolyzed using clean renewable energy.

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.

European needs

The European Union plans to produce 10 million tons of green hydrogen from its own resources by 2030.

But it also counts on 10 million tons of imports to replace coal, oil and gas in some industrial and transport sectors.

“We understand that we cannot produce all this hydrogen in Europe domestically, it is impossible,” said Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, secretary general of the European trade association Hydrogen Europe.

“We don’t have enough sun in all of Europe and not enough wind. That’s why the first partner is Africa”.

The Europe-Namibia energy link took a major step forward last November, three months before Russia invaded Ukraine and escalated tension under the EU to diversify its sources.

Namibia has selected Hyphen Hydrogen Energy, a joint venture between the German renewable energy group Enertrag and investment vehicle Nicholas Holdings, as the preferred bidder for a solar park and green hydrogen project in Tsau Khaeb in the southwest of the country. .

If all goes according to the times, the first phase of electricity production will become operational starting from 2026.

At best, the site could generate 300,000 tons of green hydrogen per year.

’emancipation’

But the investment in Tsau Khaeb also gives an idea of ​​the funds Namibia needs to attract if it hopes to become a hydrogen giant.

Hyphen on its website puts the overall commitment at $ 9.4 billion. This figure compares to Namibia’s annual GDP of $ 10.7 billion, according to World Bank statistics.

Chinese companies “are knocking on our door and wanting to get involved,” Mnyupe said.

Namibia, he said, will work “with all those who are aligned with our vision of industrializing Namibia”.

The country hopes to get out of the rut in which many African countries find themselves: exporters of raw materials rather than refined products that have a higher added value.

One of the goals of solar investments is to achieve energy self-sufficiency itself: about two-thirds of the country’s electricity is imported, mainly from South Africa.

“This is the first step in economic emancipation,” Mnyupe said.