Green hydrogen will boost Kenya's quest for net zero economy

Green Hydrogen Roadmap has been divided into two phases. [iStockphoto]

As the world grapples with the urgent need to transition towards sustainable energy sources, Kenya has gazetted new regulations allowing processing of green hydrogen for commercial use.

Long overlooked as a potential alternative energy and raw material source for industrial, transport, and domestic use, green hydrogen is emerging as a cheap energy carrier used directly or in the form of its derivatives like e-methanol, e-ammonia, or e-fuels to replace fossil fuels, coal or gas.

Green hydrogen complements ongoing efforts to deepen adoption of renewable energies such as geothermal, wind, solar and hydropower sources of energy that now produce up to 80 per cent of Kenya’s electricity.

Unlike conventional methods which require fossil fuels to run thermal power plants, and, in the process emit greenhouse gases, green hydrogen produces no carbon dioxide, making it an environmentally friendly solution. It is obtained from renewable sources like wind, solar, or hydroelectric electricity via a process called electrolysis.

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

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, builds a huge potential for growing a sustainable green hydrogen economy.

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.

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 is not only affordable and clean, it portends creation of new jobs, promotes new green industries and opens opportunities to new export revenues.

Among the incentives in place is the designation of green hydrogen production sites as Special Economic Zones, which is aimed at positioning Kenya as a destination for green hydrogen investment 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.

To fast-track development of the green hydrogen subsector, implementation of the Green Hydrogen Roadmap has been divided into two phases of five years each, where the initial phase (2023-2027) will focus on reducing reliance on imported ammonia-based fertiliser and methanol by 20 per cent.

The second phase will concentrate on decarbonising the transport sector and enhancing the resilience of the power generation sector by promoting the introduction of fuel cell electric vehicles 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.

-Mr Bukachi is a Senior Renewable Energy Officer at the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority