This week South Africa hosts the International Partnership for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in the Economy Steering Committee

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The world’s leading partners in the multi-billion-dollar fuel cell industry will meet in Pretoria this week for the 39th meeting of the International Partnership for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in the Economy (IPHE) steering committee.

The Department of Science and Innovation is hosting the IPHE meeting from 24 to 28 April with leading hydrogen fuel cell technology (HFCT) partners from around the globe, as it looks to develop the local fuel cells market.

Countries such as China, the United States of America, Brazil, Japan, Zimbabwe and India, and the European Commission, will participate in the meeting. The meeting is dedicated to the development, promotion and integration of hydrogen fuel cells (HFCs) in the global economy.

The global fuel cell industry is worth billions, with countries such as Japan, China and the USA at the forefront of innovation in this industry.

Comprising 22 member countries, the IPHE serves as a mechanism to organise and implement effective and focused international research and development, demonstration and deployment activities related to HFCTs.

It also provides a forum for sharing best practices on initiatives, policies, regulations and standards, among other things, to accelerate the widespread deployment of HFCs in the economy and enable energy, economic and environmental security worldwide.

South Africa has been a member of the IPHE since 2010 and the partnership presents an excellent platform for the country to form and strengthen collaborations that will drive the local development of the fuel cell market.

The Department of Science and Innovation developed its HFCT Research, Development and Innovation Strategy in 2008, and is now working through the Hydrogen South Africa (HySA) programme to develop products for the export market. The country has demonstrated its capabilities by developing various initiatives and products, which include a hydrogen-powered forklift, a 2 kW HFC system deployed at the University of Western Cape nature reserve, and seven fuel cell systems deployed at 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria in 2020 to power critical care equipment for Covid-19 patients.

The IPHE provides an opportunity for South Africa to learn about the expectations of the global market in terms of product performance and targets, the current limitations of the technology and what is being done to address the challenges.

One of HySA’s primary objectives is to create wealth through value added manufacturing by developing the platinum group metal catalysis value chain in South Africa, with the aim of capturing 25% of the global fuel cell market.

The IPHE meeting will include a government round table focusing on policy to promote the deployment and uptake of fuel cells.  Key government departments, including the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy and the National Treasury, are expected to participate.  Other participants will include CEOs and representatives of local platinum companies, science councils, gas and fuel cell companies.

Academics and local university and technical and vocational education and training college students involved in fuel cell research will attend the education session.  The students are also participating in a poster competition on HCFTs.

The Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, will host delegates for a dinner on Tuesday evening.

Author: Bryan Groenendaal


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