UP training TVET students in hydrogen fuel cell systems

Posted on November 13, 2020

The University of Pretoria (UP) is involved in training Technical and Vocational Education and Training college graduates in hydrogen fuel cell systems. This is in partnership with Bambili Energy, the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation (DSI) and the Energy & Water Sector Education Training Authority (EWSETA). 

An event to officially launch the training, which has begun on the Hatfield Campus, was held recently at UP. Training is expected to end on 11 December. “The aim is to develop competent, capable and work-ready technicians for the deployment, installation and maintenance of hydrogen fuel cell systems in South Africa and beyond,” said Professor Raj Naidoo, Head of UP’s Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology (EBIT).

Addressing the event virtually, Buti Manamela, Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, said fuel cells are expected to play a significant role in providing energy to buildings and in off-grid electrification, particularly in areas where grid extension is not economically viable.

“To address these markets, capabilities need to be built in order to support the local manufacturing of the technologies as well as their deployment in the various applications. Having local skills to install, operate and maintain the fuel cell systems is critical. The Department of Science and Innovation views this as an opportunity that can be filled by graduates at N4 to N6 levels with Electrical and Chemical Engineering qualifications.”

“UP supports human capital development,” said Dean of the Faculty of EBIT, Professor Sunil Maharaj. “We are honoured to launch this event. UP is part of the energy space in the country in both demand-side management and energy efficiency, covering solar, nuclear, other renewables and now hydrogen. We are humbled to be partnering with Bambili Energy.”

Referring to the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, Prof Maharaj said, “We need to save this planet especially in terms of climate change and clean energy for sustainable living. We all need to work together to make this planet a safer place for the next generation and UP is grateful to walk this journey with all the partners ranging from government, state-owned enterprises and industry to original equipment manufacturers and the sector education and training authorities.”

“[Training is funded by the EWSETA and DSI] as part of implementing the Cabinet-approved Hydrogen South Africa (HySA) Strategy through a 15-year research, development and innovation HySA programme,” added Deputy Director-General at the DSI, Dr Mmboneni Muofhe. “This programme is aimed at developing hydrogen and fuel cell technologies, with a focus on beneficiating the platinum group metals resource base that South Africa possesses. The programme is therefore an important pillar in positioning South Africa as part of the emerging global hydrogen economy.”

The DSI selected Bambili Energy to facilitate the training, which complements the demonstration of 15 hydrogen fuel cell systems in South Africa. Currently, seven of these fuel cell systems are supporting 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria in response to government COVID-19 support.

“It has been an incredible journey of planning and organising for the launch of this training, said Zanele Mavuso Mbatha, CEO of Bambili Energy. “We are grateful for the partnership and support in training the first group of graduates. We made sure to partner with a reputable academic institution, which is UP. The goal is to ensure that by completion of training, graduates will be effectively knowledgeable about the fuel cell industry, the hydrogen economy, and renewable energy, and, most importantly, have the ability to fuel and maintain fuel cell systems.”

“There is a high number of graduates who are unemployed,” said Mpho Mookapele, CEO of the EWSETA. “This project will help fight that; it is exciting to see that this training is led by industry.”

- Author Xolani Mathibela

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