Europe’s green hydrogen rush risks energy ‘cannibalisation’ in Africa, analysts say

(EurActiv, 17 Apr 2023) Europe’s green hydrogen plans have set off a race among developing nations, particularly in Africa, to become the bloc’s first suppliers, risking energy needs among their own populations. EURACTIV’s media partner, Climate Home News, reports.

The EU bloc sees hydrogen made with renewable energy – known as “green hydrogen” – as a cost-effective way to reduce emissions, especially in industries that are difficult to decarbonise such as aviation and heavy land transport.

While the European industry is in its infancy, hopes of achieving short-term goals largely rest on production overseas. Countries, especially in Northern and Sub-saharan Africa, have been attracted by the sector’s opportunity for investments and new jobs, analysts told Climate Home News.

But experts warned the enthusiasm hides significant risks. Incentives built into the EU regulations mean the massive scale-up of green hydrogen exports could take up most renewable electricity in developing nations, at the expense of local populations.

This would be a problem for countries like Namibia – one of the EU’s key hydrogen partners – where just over half of the population has access to electricity.

For Godrje Rustomjee, an analyst at the African Climate Foundation, countries need to find the right trade-off between domestic needs and export potential.

Otherwise, he says, the risk is that green hydrogen may turn into “another neo-colonial project”.

“There is a real possibility that foreign countries come in with direct investment, but all the benefits and added value end up being extracted and sent across to Europe”.

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EurActiv, 17 Apr 2023: Europe’s green hydrogen rush risks energy ‘cannibalisation’ in Africa, analysts say