Government and private sector partner to manufacture and distribute fuel cells


Anglo Platinum and the South African Department of Science are funding a new company, Clean Energy Incorporated which will manufacture and distribute fuel cells for the sub-Saharan African market.

The DST through its Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and Anglo Platinum through its Platinum Group Metals Development Fund (PGMD Fund) have partnered with California-based Altergy Systems to establish a fuel cell marketing, distribution and manufacturing entity under a license arrangement.

Anglo Platinum Limited is the world’s leading primary producer of platinum group metals (PGMs) and accounts for about 40% of the world’s newly mined platinum. With 75% of the world PGM reserves residing locally, South Africa has to be an active participant in the nascent “hydrogen economy”.

Altergy will initially provide market development services during the 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.

Both the DST through the TIA and the 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 channelled for success.

According to a press release, the new company’s primary objectives 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 which have numerous military applications.
“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,” says Anthea Bath, Head of Market development and research at Anglo Platinum.

South African Minister for Science and Technology, , Naledi Pandor said “This initiative is in line with the DST’s goal of promoting South Africa as a source of world class, high technology transfer and infrastructure opportunities”. DST is part of the Economic Sector and Employment Cluster that has prioritized cross-cutting interventions to promote decent work.

The deal flows from the DST’s ambition to operationalise the National Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Research, Development and Innovation Strategy (HySA) that was approved by Cabinet in May 2007. HySA also falls in the ambit of the Department of Trade and Industry’s second industrial policy action plan (IPAP2). Its objectives are to create a local hydrogen economy, as well as to move the country towards a knowledge-based economic dispensation and to enable SA to extract more value from the beneficiation of its natural resources, in this case its abundant PGM resources. The ultimate goal of this national strategy is to supply 25% of the world catalyst demand by 2020.

Fuel cells have great military utility and can arguably replace batteries in many applications.