Energy is on the main menu for discussions all over the world. The need for energy is destroying the planet at unexpected rates, but nevertheless, people still need it in greater quantities. Africa is a prime example. The continent will have greater and greater demand for energy the more it develops it’s infrastructure and with the population continuing to expand and expand. Power is needed on many different levels across the continent. There are still areas that are not connected to grid electricity, and therefore many households that do not have access to power for fridges, televisions or even to charge their mobile phones. But it is not only individuals that have demand. For industry to grow, their demand for power will also increase, which will put further burden on the current traditional grid.

A lot of countries still rely on hydro electricity, which is ironic in a continent which is notorious for its unreliable rainfall. Other options are springing up throughout the continent. Solar power is being utilised on a big scale in countries like Morocco, and there are more effective storage capabilities for renewable energy, although they are not yet the perfect solutions. Off grid solutions, which also involve solar power, but in a Pay As You Go system, for individuals, and mini grids for communities are also an option.

One of the things that the African continent is best at is joining to problems together to make as solution. Waste is one major problem, with gutters often clogged with plastics from drinking water sachets and food packaging, or their rubbish which accumulates in the cities. In my time in Accra, I often tried to think of ways of cleaning up this rubbish effectively. In my opinion back then, some how monetising it, as an incentive to others to collect the rubbish and delivering it to a set location could be the best way of cleaning up the city. If that set location were a power station, then it could kill two birds with one stone!

reppie waste to power ethiopia .jpg
The massive waste to energy power plant in Ethiopia

Well, Ethiopia have moved forward with such a plan and have built Africa’s first waste to energy plant on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, the capital. The plant, called the Reppie project, is built on a huge landfill site, which tragically made the headlines earlier this year after a landslide killed over 100 people, including residence and scavengers. This tragic event spurred the Ethiopian government to find a solution with for the waste problem in the country.

The plant will process 1,400 tons of waste daily, which equates to roughly 80% of the trash created by Addis Ababa, and produce around 30% of the household electricity requirements. By burning the rubbish in a combustion chamber, the water is boiled to create steam, which drives the turbines and produces the electricity, a system which is very popular in Europe. Alarm bells may ring when you hear that waste is burned, but the plant will meet all of the worlds emissions standards.

waste to power africa reppie.png

It will be exciting to see how this plant works out and if it is really will cover 30% of the household electricity needs within the city. If so, it can be replicated across the country, and as the technology is improves, it will become more and more efficient, hopefully creating less emissions for more electricity. What we must bare in mind though, is that Africa, and the world, needs to find other ways of reducing waste output, and utilising it in other cleaner ways.

african woman cooking
Cooking over Charcoal

This big plant may not be of help to those in rural areas in Ethiopia, and the rest of Africa. And there are other energy needs of people, both in cities and rural areas. Cooking takes up a lot of the energy requirements. Cooking takes up a major part of many families’ income in Africa. Fuels like charcoal can be expensive, whilst Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) is less expensive, but needs to be bought in larger quantities, which is often not affordable.

A company called Envirofit have developed a SmartGas solution, that will enable far more families to access to the cheaper LPG for cooking their meals every day, but at a much affordable rate than buying the entire gas canister in one go. Many families have gas canisters in their house, but still use other forms of fuel because they can’e afford the months worth in one go. Therefore, only about 5% of the African population is using LPG. With the popularity of mobile money, and easier payment methods, Envirofit have created a Pay-As-You-Go option so families can pay for the LPG only when they need it.

Women in Africa take on most of the burden of household chores. And cooking takes up some of the most time. Not only is the food preparation very lengthy, for example when pounding fufu, or even making jolloff rice, but getting the fuel can be a tiring and frustrating experience. Whether it is going off to cut wood, or carrying the heavy canister kilometres to be refilled, it is a huge burden on women. These women have to trust that the canisters are full of the LPG they paid for, and also safe. They often also do not have the expertise to safely install them.

Collecting firewood is so time consuming for African women

Envirofit provide home delivery of the canisters, help with installation and education as to how to safely use LPG for cooking. With their mobile app, consumers can pay for gas when they need, and the gps enabled smart valve will be activated, letting the consumer know when the amount of gas is finished. It is safer, cheaper, cleaner and much more time efficient. A really cool African kitchen innovation!

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