06 Dec 2022, 13:34
Benjamin Wehrmann

Germany must avoid “energy-imperialism” in hydrogen deal with Namibia - minister

Süddeutsche Zeitung 

A large green hydrogen production project currently planned in the southern African state of Namibia aimed at supplying Germany’s industry with the fuel has led the German government to tread carefully to avoid giving the impression that it plans to exploit its former colony’s natural resources, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reports. “The last thing we can accept is a kind of new energy-imperialism,” German economy and climate minister Robert Habeck said during a visit to Namibia’s capital Windhoek. The Green Party politician was accompanied by a large delegation of energy industry representatives who are eyeing attractive contracts in the sparsely populated country, which offers ideal conditions for wind and solar and power production. A project by German company Enertrag in Namibia plans to install hundreds of turbines and vast solar PV arrays to produce up 350,000 tonnes of green hydrogen per year, which could be shipped to Germany in the form of ammonia by around 2027. The project’s cost of 12 billion euros is larger than Namibia’s annual economic output, the newspaper noted. The project comes with a desalination plant near the coastal town of Lüderitz to provide water for electrolysis in the dry desert region. Habeck stressed that Germany would only import energy that Namibia doesn’t need for domestic consumption, and that the project above all has to serve citizens of the African nation. The hydrogen project could create up to 3,000 jobs in southern Namibia, a region where imperial Germany established diamond mines and cordoned off large parts of the land for indigenous inhabitants at the start of the 20th century.

Imperial Germany occupied and exploited Namibia for about 30 years before losing the colony after its defeat during World War 1 in 1915. In 2021, the German parliament formally acknowledged that German forces had committed a genocide on the native Herero and Nama peoples. The acknowledgement followed years of disputes between the two country’s governments. It is a move that Namibia’s president Hage Geingob had called “a first step in the right direction.” Critics say European energy policy in Africa repeats traditional exploitative patterns centred on resource extraction, a concern Germany has sought to address by promising to put local interests first and assisting partner countries in their own energy transition. 

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