Green hydrogen production in the MENA region faces a water problem, says energy leader

In a global effort to reduce carbon emissions, several countries in the Middle East and North Africa are considering producing green hydrogen as a carbon-free energy source. Calls for the development of such clean energy technologies are particularly strong ahead of COP27, the global climate change conference that Egypt will host next month.

Jawad El Kharraz, executive director of the Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (RCREEE), said Arab countries should localize green hydrogen production technology. However, in an interview with Al-Fanar Media, he points out that this process faces challenges related to water scarcity in the North Africa region.

RCREEE is an intergovernmental organization with diplomatic status that seeks to activate and increase the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency practices in the Arab region. It is also the technical arm of the Energy Department of the League of Arab States and the Arab Ministerial Council for Electricity.

Highlight Arab successes at COP27

While El Kharraz believes that the upcoming COP27 climate summit will be a great opportunity for Egypt and its Arab and African environment, he says this major global event is also an opportunity to highlight successes in the process. energy transition, because Egypt is a pioneer in this field. this field. Egypt suffered from an electricity deficit for years, he said, but now has a surplus thanks to conservation measures and investments in renewable energy, including in power projects. solar and wind energy, and investments in the field of renewable energies. It has set an ambitious target to increase the contribution of renewable energies in the energy mix to 42% by 2035.

“We need nine liters of pure water to produce one kilogram of green hydrogen. So the idea of ​​responding to European demands at the expense of our water resources is unacceptable.

El Kharraz described the contribution and commitments of European countries and the United States to financing climate funds as “below expectations so far”.

He said that developed countries wishing to import green hydrogen from Arab countries are urged to pump big investments in this field. He explains that providing finance is a burden for Arab countries.

The industrial sector in Arab countries must prepare to meet European requirements on the carbon content of imported goods, he said.

Regarding the Arab experience in the field of energy transition, El Kharraz said that Morocco aims to increase the contributions of renewable energies in its energy mix by 52% by 2030. He sees Egypt, Morocco, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates as pioneers in terms of volume of investments, projects implemented and legislative and political dynamics.

On the other hand, he noted that some Arab countries have political, social and economic conditions preventing them from following the energy transition, such as Yemen and Syria. His organization works to transfer and exchange experiences in this area across the Arab world, he said.

Solar and wind energy

Arab countries have made great strides in harnessing solar and wind energy, El Kharraz said, but the future will require huge investments. It will be difficult but not impossible, he said.

As an example of the challenges that alternative energy must solve, he mentioned the Gulf of Suez region in Egypt, where there is great potential for wind energy but also a need to protect migratory birds, especially with Egypt being a signatory to the Convention on Diversity, and therefore obliged to preserve their habitats and migration routes. The greater the number of wind turbines, the greater the risk to these birds, he said.

RCREEE has a role to play in protection efforts, El Kharraz said. The center acts as a mediator in Egyptian government contracts with private sector companies in this region. It also carries out environmental and economic impact studies for proposed projects.

“We must seize the opportunity and compel European partners and developed countries to localize this technology in our countries, so that we can benefit from it.”

“We are in favor of increasing renewable energy production capacity, but not at the expense of the environment and biodiversity,” he said. “So we have teams monitoring the movement of birds using radar, in anticipation of flocks of birds passing, as the company concerned is warned to shut down the turbines.”

Green hydrogen production

Regarding the prospects of Arab countries exporting green hydrogen to Europe, he stressed the need to work on the localization of the production technology of this clean fuel in the Arab world.

“We must seize the opportunity and oblige European partners and developed countries to localize this technology in our countries, so that we can benefit from it, and to support scientific research for the same purposes in universities and academic institutions.”

El Kharraz noted that a recent conference in Bahrain presented concepts for accelerating the production of “blue hydrogen”, which is produced from natural gas, instead of green hydrogen, which can be produced using renewable energies but requires a significant supply of water.

“We need nine liters of pure water to produce one kilogram of green hydrogen,” he said. “Thus, the idea of ​​meeting European demands at the expense of our water resources is unacceptable.”

But Arab countries are divided on green hydrogen production projects, he said. Morocco has published a national strategy to this effect, while Egypt is preparing one, and Saudi Arabia and the Emirates already have projects underway to produce green hydrogen by 2025.

In turn, the League of Arab States is preparing an Arab Strategy for Green Hydrogen which will provide recommendations to member states, according to each country’s plan. However, there are legislative and financial challenges, in addition to challenges related to green hydrogen production technology on a global scale. Its production through renewable energy is still limited, El Kharraz said.

Related reading

Learn more about Egypt’s preparations to host the COP27 climate change conference at Climate and environmentan archive of Al-Fanar Media reports on this topic.

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