Govt, private sector partners to produce fuel cells in SA

Monday, August 2, 2010

Pretoria - The Department of Science and Technology has partnered with Anglo Platinum and Altergy Systems to establish a new company that will distribute its products and manufacture fuel cells for the sub-Saharan African market.

The department, through its Technology Innovation Agency (TIA); Anglo Platinum through its Platinum Group Metals Development Fund (PGMD Fund); and California-based Altergy have agreed to establish a fuel cell marketing, distribution and manufacturing entity, Clean Energy Incorporated, under a license arrangement.

Both the department through the TIA and PGMD Fund will invest in the transaction, and along with Altergy, will each receive an equity position in Clean Energy.

The equity allocation creates a "partnering model" that aligns all shareholder objectives in Clean Energy to be channeled for success.

Anglo Platinum head of marketing development and research, Anthea Bath said: "We are pleased that our partnership with government and other role players in the industry is bearing tangible results.

"We believe this will go a long way in ensuring that we further develop the PGM market and is a boost for local beneficiation."

Science and Technology Minister, Naledi Pandor said the initiative is in line with her department's goal of promoting South Africa as a source of world class, high technology transfer and infrastructure opportunities.

"Our department is part of the Economic Sector and Employment Cluster that has prioritised cross-cutting interventions to promote decent work," she said.

The initial primary objectives of the new company will be to develop a market for the Altergy products by marketing and setting up a distribution network throughout the Sub-Saharan region.

Thereafter, following the successful development of the market, Clean Energy will look to establish a manufacturing and assembly plant in South Africa which will ultimately supply the Sub-Saharan and World Wide markets with high quality fuel cell products

Altergy will initially provide market development services during the initial market development stage and thereafter assembly line services once the manufacturing and assembly plant is commissioned.

Most fuel cells use platinum-group-metals (PGM) as a catalyst for the conversion of hydrogen into electricity.

With 75 percent of the world PGM reserves residing locally, South Africa has to be an active participant in the nascent "hydrogen economy".

This will ensure that South Africa enjoys the economic returns on beneficiation processes and is able to promote the growth of the knowledge economy in line with the National Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Research, Development and Innovation Strategy (HySA).

In May 2007, Cabinet approved the department's initiated Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Research, Development and Innovation Strategy, branded HySA.

HySA is a culmination of various national policies of the department in respect of research and development. The objectives of HySA are to achieve the aim of creating a Hydrogen Economy, as well as to enable South Africa to move towards a knowledge-based economy.

Most importantly, the objective is to enable South Africa to extract more value from beneficiation of its natural resources, in this case, the abundant PGM resources.

The ultimate goal of this national strategy is to supply 25 percent of the world catalyst demand by 2020.