Namibia, a desert country among the most affected by global warming, is displaying its industrial ambition in solar energy and green hydrogen. This southern African country wants to become self-sufficient in photovoltaic electricity and even dreams of exporting it by 2030.

Not enough water in the dams

Namibia selected in November 2021 the operators of its future first solar electricity production unit: the Hyphen consortium, which should produce some 5,000 MW from 2026 in Tsau Khaeb, in the south-west of the country, on the Atlantic coast.

Economic adviser to the Namibian government James Mnyupe stresses that all products will come from “renewable energy” and that the activities “will not emit CO2”. “We have fires and droughts are killing us electricity-wise because we are dependent on hydro-electricity,” he asserted. The country lacks water but the production of hydrogen would be done by electrolysis of sea water from solar energy.

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Attract European investors

For this, the country needs to attract investors. The Namibian authorities want to convince Europeans to invest in their solar potential and sell them their electricity and green hydrogen, generated by separating the molecules of seawater. This requires a lot of energy.

“Currently, 60 to 70% of our electricity is imported, mainly from South Africa”declares James Mnyupe. The first step is already to achieve self-sufficiency in electricity. It would be “the first step of economic emancipation. (…) It could be” then that Namibia becomes “a net exporter” electricity, wants to believe the government’s economic adviser.

The authorities even claim to want “helping Europe to decarbonize” via the production of hydrogen and green ammonia from solar energy. Namibia has “the ambition to become an incubator for a synthetic fuel industry” starting by producing solar energy, then green hydrogen, and decarbonized ammonia, explained James Mnyupe who presented the country’s strategy on May 18, 2022 in Paris.

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“The EU understands that it cannot produce 20 million tonnes of hydrogen in Europe, it is impossible, we do not have enough sun and not enough wind, which is why our first partner is the Africa.”

Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, head of the professional association Hydrogen Europe

at AFP

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Allow Europe to do without Russian gas

The Namibian government traveled to Europe to plead its case and “offer its extraordinary sunshine”. The EU is counting on “the EU-Africa hydrogen partnership” to reduce its use of gas and decarbonise its industrial activities, starting with the major ports where natural gas-consuming activities are concentrated (steelmaking, chemicals, etc.).

Namibia will have to position itself in relation to the energy objectives recently defined by the European Union to free itself from Russian gas. If the EU intends to produce ten million tonnes of hydrogen from renewable sources by 2030, it will also have to import it massively to replace coal, oil and gas in certain sectors of industry and transport.

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