Germany sets sights on African hydrogen in clean energy quest

Chancellor Olaf Scholz's deputy visits Namibia to seek closer energy ties

Germany hopes African wind and solar energy could be used to produce hydrogen for export. AP
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Germany’s search for new energy partners reached southern Africa on Monday as Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck arrived in Namibia on the hunt for green hydrogen.

Mr Habeck has Africa's wind and sunshine in his sights as a way of producing hydrogen that could be shipped to Germany.

But visiting a country that was once under German imperial rule, he said it was important for both nations to benefit.

“If you have energy to spend — and I know that conditions are great and wonderful in Namibia — then there is a European interest,” he told Namibian President Hage Geingob on Monday.

“But the first [thing] is of course that you and your country, and the people in your country, have an affordable and reliable energy system.”

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock was meanwhile in India seeking closer co-operation on trade and climate change.

But she did not extract a promise from India to stop buying Russian oil or respect a $60 per barrel price cap introduced by G7 countries.

“The oil imported in the European Union [from Russia] is six times what India has imported,” said Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. "Gas is infinity times because we don’t import."

He suggested it was wrong for “Europe to make choices which prioritise its energy needs, and then ask India to do something else”.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock visiting India on Monday. AP

Once reliant on Russia for energy, Germany has sought alternative suppliers in North America, the Middle East and Africa since the war in Ukraine broke out.

Green hydrogen fuel is also central to Germany’s goal of having a carbon-neutral economy by 2045.

Qatar and Germany last week signed a long-term agreement for gas supplies, and a test hydrogen shipment from the UAE arrived in Hamburg in October.

There is no firm agreement yet for Namibian exports to Germany, but Mr Habeck signed an initial memorandum of understanding in Windhoek.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz's deputy will later travel to South Africa to meet President Cyril Ramaphosa at a German-African business summit.

“African countries are important partners in diversifying our supply chains and decarbonising global energy systems,” Mr Habeck said.

“That has a particular significance with regard to climate change, which is felt especially in southern Africa.”

Germany was the colonial ruler of Namibia from 1884 to 1915 in what was known as German South West Africa.

It formally apologised last year for its treatment of the Herero and Nama people in a 1904-08 war, accepting it amounted to genocide.

German officials said the reconciliation process would be part of Mr Habeck’s discussions.

Updated: December 05, 2022, 12:41 PM