Waste to Energy: Lessons from South Africa
When you talk biogas in Kenya we quickly think about the small plants that we have within households used as source of cooking fuel and lighting in some instances. Commercial biogas plants have not picked up in Kenya as yet. The narrative is different as I would find out from my visit to the largest biogas plant in South Africa. Bio2Watt a company in South Africa has redefined the renewable energy industry and is producing energy for lighting. The Bronkhorstspruit Biogas Plant (Pty) Ltd has a capacity of 4.6MW energy production which they produce and sell to BMW South Africa. The difference in the Pty biogas plant and what has been experienced in Kenya is the large scale production that they have invested in, enough to produce renewable energy for BMW. Pty have managed to get into an agreement with the national energy regulator to produce and sell electricity to BMW through power purchase agreement.
Pty is in the business of reducing waste from the food processing plants where they get some of the organic waste they use for production. The feed into the digester is cow dung and organic waste from food processing plants. The use of this waste reduces landfills and avoids and reduces Green House Gases emission and avoid water pollution. Pty has increased the amount of production of renewable energy in South Africa and has contributed to the development of local expertise in production of renewable energy. Bio2Watt has created a model that benefits different players in the biogas production value chain to a point that they maximize the benefits for all the stakeholders. The community around the factory has benefited from the jobs that the plant has created. South Africa has benefited from the increased production of organic fertilizer and electricity.
My take home from Pty was, what is the bigger picture in the renewable energy journey in Kenya. Is it time for Kenya to invest in large scale production of energy even as we focus on universal access to energy by 2020.