South Africa eyes fuel cell future

3 August 2010

The South African government is partnering with the private sector to establish a new company, Clean Energy Incorporated, which will manufacture, market and distribute fuel cells in sub-Saharan Africa.

The company has been established under a licence arrangement between the Department of Science and Technology’s Technology Innovation Agency, mining giant Anglo Platinum’s Platinum Group Metals Development Fund, and California-based fuel cell developer Altergy Systems.

“We are pleased that our partnership with government and other role players in the industry is bearing tangible results,” Anglo Platinum’s head of marketing development and research, Anthea Bath, said this week. “We believe this will go a long way in ensuring that we further develop the [platinum group metals] market and is a boost for local beneficiation.”

Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor said the initiative was in line with her department’s goal of promoting South Africa as a source of world-class, high technology transfer and infrastructure opportunities.

“Our department is part of the economic sector and employment cluster that has prioritised cross-cutting interventions to promote decent work,” she said.

Developing a new market

The primary objectives of the new company will be to develop a market for Altergy products by marketing and setting up a distribution network throughout the sub-Saharan African region.

Thereafter, following the successful development of the market, Clean Energy will look to establish a manufacturing and assembly plant in South Africa which will ultimately supply the sub-Saharan African and global markets with high quality fuel cell products.

Altergy will initially provide market development services during the initial market development stage and thereafter assembly line services once the manufacturing and assembly plant is commissioned.

South Africa’s hydrogen economy

Most fuel cells use platinum-group-metals (PGM) as a catalyst for the conversion of hydrogen into electricity. With 75% of the world PGM reserves residing locally, South Africa has to be an active participant in the nascent “hydrogen economy”.

This will ensure that South Africa enjoys the economic returns on beneficiation processes and is able to promote the growth of the knowledge economy in line with the National Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Research, Development and Innovation Strategy, or HySA, which was approved by the Cabinet in May 2007.

The objectives of HySA are to achieve the aim of creating a Hydrogen Economy, as well as to enable South Africa to move towards a knowledge-based economy.

Most importantly, the objective is to enable South Africa to extract more value from beneficiation of its natural resources, in this case, the abundant PGM resources.

The ultimate goal of this national strategy is to supply up to 25% of world catalyst demand by 2020.

Source: BuaNews