Kenya is leading the way for a Net Zero Economy driven by Green Hydrogen

As the world grapples with the urgent need to transition towards sustainable energy sources, Kenya is embracing innovative solutions to address its energy needs. One such promising solution is green hydrogen, long overlooked as a potential alternative energy and raw material source for industrial, transport, and domestic use.

Green hydrogen, often known as hydrogen, is a clean and sustainable energy carrier obtained from renewable sources like wind, solar, or hydroelectric electricity via a process called electrolysis. Unlike conventional methods which require fossil fuels to generate power and, in the process, emit greenhouse gases, green hydrogen production produces no carbon dioxide, making it an environmentally friendly solution.

In line with Kenya’s committed drive for a net-zero energy sector, the country in collaboration with various public and private sector stakeholders has facilitated adoption of Hydrogen by formulating a Green Hydrogen Strategy and Roadmap for Kenya. It holds great potential to meet Kenya’s ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 32 percent by 2030, and achieve Net Zero by 2050.

In Africa, Kenya, South Africa, Namibia, Egypt, Morocco and Mauritania are among the first adopters of Green Hydrogen technology with plans in high gear to deepen collaboration to supercharge the development of green hydrogen projects on the African continent.

Green hydrogen development in Africa could enhance access to affordable and clean energy, create jobs, provide public health benefits such as cleaner air, promote new green industries and wealth creation, and open opportunities to new export revenues.

Read also: Olaka’s Legacy: First green bond and other milestones at KBA

Why Hydrogen Power?

In Kenya, a competitive green hydrogen economy not only promises a paradigm shift for the “emission-laden industries”, but also provides an opportunity to catalyse socio-economic transformation. The broad perspective of the strategy is to stimulate demand for diverse uses of green hydrogen and its derivatives in transport, agriculture, power generation and industry, among others.

Implementation of the Roadmap is divided into two phases of five years each, where the initial phase (2023-2027) will focus on reducing reliance on imported ammonia-based fertilizer and methanol by 20 percent (around 100,000 tonnes/year) and 100 percent (more than 5,000 tonnes/year) respectively in favour of locally manufactured fertilisers.

The second phase will concentrate on decarbonising the transport sector and enhance the resilience of the power generation sector by promoting the introduction of fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) that are powered by hydrogen. They are more efficient than conventional internal combustion engine vehicles and produce no harmful tailpipe emissions as they only emit water vapour and warm air.

By embracing green hydrogen technologies, Kenya could become a hub of green hydrogen knowledge, expertise and equipment that could be exported across Africa and beyond. Green Hydrogen, as opposed to other energy technologies build a huge potential for growing a sustainable green hydrogen economy.

Despite green hydrogen’s potential and expected benefits, cost competitiveness and sustainability are paramount in building a green hydrogen economy. Sustainability in the production process is defined in terms of sustainable use of water and land, and power generation. For instance, powering the electrolyser for green hydrogen production should not compromise the realisation of Sustainable Development Goal 7 that focuses on access to sustainable, affordable and reliable modern energy services for all by 2030.

Green hydrogen derivatives

Fresh water should be avoided in areas with water stress as a way of reducing risks associated with water access. Where the investment in desalination is adopted, the resultant water should also benefit the local communities. Overall, the green hydrogen production process should obtain a social licence from the local community. In addition, high safety standards should be adopted in the production, transportation, storage and usage of green hydrogen and its derivatives.

To promote application of the green hydrogen technology in Kenya, Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) has formulated the Green Hydrogen Guidelines in consultation with sector players aimed at making its deployment sustainable, safe and attractive to investors.

Among the incentives in place is the designation of green hydrogen production sites as Special Economic Zones, which is aimed at positioning Kenya not only as a destination for Green Hydrogen investment but with a forward-looking regulatory regime that actively works with the existing investors in addressing barriers in the sector.

Since the launch of the guidelines, six investors have launched operations involved in the production of green ammonia, sustainable aviation fuel, methanol and power generation.

The writer, Eng. Nickson Bukachi, is a Senior Renewable Energy Officer at the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority

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