Tag Archives: African Municipalities

SAMSET Releases a New Guide to Clean Energy Transitions for Sub Saharan Municipalities

Simon Batchelor from Gamos writes on the recently-released Guidelines to Clean Energy document for SAMSET.

As a part of our ongoing work with Sub Saharan Municipalities in Uganda and Ghana, the research team have brought together some basic information on clean energy transitions.  “GUIDELINES TO CLEAN ENERGY:- A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR SUB SAHARAN AFRICAN MUNICIPALITIES (2017)”. The Guide is intended to help decision makers in Municipalities in Sub Saharan Africa to consider ways in which they could make their city utilize cleaner energy. Its foreword states “This manual has been designed for use by city officials and planners working in sub-Saharan Africa. It is a practical handbook, which identifies easy to achieve energy interventions that will save money (for cities, businesses and households), promote local economic development, and enhance the sustainable profile of a city. This manual is specifically aimed as a support tool to achieve the implementation of key interventions within municipalities across sub-Saharan Africa.”

The 200 page document starts with a call for cleaner energy. Its opening chapter draws on various sources to show how our ongoing use of fossil fuels is linked to climate change. The historical contribution of Sub Saharan Africa to global climate change is small compared to the developed countries, however over the next 30 years it will increase its contribution particularly if ‘Business as Usual’ is continued. The opening chapters discuss how this global problem is the responsibility of all, and how municipalities could take a decision to move towards clean energy that might contribute to climate change mitigation in the long term.

The guide, however, is titled ‘A Practical Guide’ and we felt it important to move quickly on from the macro picture of global challenges to the specifics of what a municipality might do. Each of the chapters has the same format –

  • An overview, which includes some basic description of technology and social change options;
  • The Case; which discusses how simple changes can make considerable differences
  • Potential for Rollout; discussing the realities of Sub Saharan African life and whether the technology could be introduced
  • Barriers to implementation (and effort to resolve); an attempt to anticipate barriers, and suggestions of what might be done
  • How to go about implementation; some suggestions for action
  • Case Studies; some Sub Saharan African case studies to illustrate the relevance and possibilities of the chapters subject.

Chapter 5 starts with Energy efficient lighting a technology that is relatively easy to implement. LED bulbs have become common and simple action ensuring they are available in the market and ‘encouraged’ among consumers can save significant amount of electricity (compared to older lamps). Chapter 6 broadens the picture to include energy efficient buildings.Ideally these need some design at the very start, but the chapter also makes suggestion for retrofitting that can lower energy consumption. Chapter 7 considers public transport. Vehicles can not only consume considerable amounts of fossil fuel, but create localized pollution. The chapter focuses on the possibilities of public transport as an alternative to everyone getting their own car. Chapter 8 considers cooking. While it may seem that municipalities have little to say about the choice of domestic cooking fuels, the ongoing use of biomass (charcoal) in urban areas contributes to local pollution, kitchen pollution and global pollution. Municipalities can undertake various strategies to assist consumers to move toward genuinely clean cooking.

Waste to energy in Chapter 9 is very much a municipality concern. Collection of waste is a challenge to many SSA municipalities, and the possibility of converting it to useful energy is worth consideration. Chapter 10 talks about Solar Photovoltaics. Solar PV has come down in price considerably over the last few years and this chapter discusses the possibilities – from solar farms contributing to the national grid, to mini and micro grids, to solar home systems.

Renewable purchase agreements are a policy tool that can encourage clean energy. Chapter 11 discusses these, pointing the municipality players to consider the policy instruments available in their country. Chapter 11 touches on carbon trading – this again is effectively a policy instrument that municipalities might consider using. And finally , a last chapter summaries but does not deal in depth, some ideas on Concentrated Solar Power, Wind Power and Solar Water Heaters.

The guide ends with a call to action, to share ideas with colleagues, and to take small steps that help us tread lightly on the earth. “We may have discussed many ideas, technologies, approaches, regulations, policies, feed in tariffs, low energy light bulbs, and energy efficient buildings among others, but ultimately consumption and sustainability come down to you. Humanity has a large footprint on this world and currently we are not treading lightly. We consume; we consume fossil fuel, we create so much impact that our climate is changing, we build cities that can be seen from space; we are heavy on the earth.”

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Urban and Rural Energy Access: “Leapfrogging”?

Mark Borchers from SEA writes on the recent context of SAMSET work in the wider space of urban and rural energy access in the developing world.

Christoph Frei, Secretary General of the World Energy Council[1] recently noted that “only three years ago, when suggesting to energy professionals that there could be ‘leap frogging’ in energy similar to what has happened in the mobile phone industry, the response would have suggested little understanding of energy realities. We now see tens of thousands of direct household solutions being delivered to rural Africa without a formal supply chain and in the absence of any energy infrastructure backbone. What does leapfrogging mean, if not this?”

…and…

“In many rural contexts in Africa, renewables are providing an engine for local development and poverty reduction.  Of the two-thirds of people in Africa without access to power, 80% live outside urban centres. A mix of off-grid renewable power instalments could be the key to electrifying rural Africa with consumers buying power locally and paying via their mobile phone.”

The potential of energy delivery modes “without a formal supply chain and in the absence of any energy infrastructure backbone” that Frei speaks of is indeed exciting. This largely bypasses the cumbersome processes of central institutions with their inefficiencies and mixed agendas.

He also notes: “For the energy sector, unprecedented speed of change and new realities pose a wide range of challenges and new opportunities for companies and governments who are on a high-stakes journey to adapt their business models and policy frameworks.”

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Energy leapfrogging does not only apply to rural areas, direct benefits to the local economy can be seen in large cities such as Kampala, above. Image: Daniel Kerr

Frei importantly reinforces the perception that the energy sector is changing rapidly, and that the old way of doing things – where centralized planning and large utilities are the key players – needs revisiting, as it is unlikely to be the way of the future.  Yet most national governments and utilities in Sub-Saharan Africa seem to be moving into the future as if this is not the case, with the potential for stranded assets and business failure. Surely new approaches and business models need to be explored more urgently.

Secondly, Frei emphasizes rural energy access in Africa. This rural focus is clearly important, and it suits national governments whose political support is generally rural-based (opposition movements tend to grow from urban areas).  But this traditional focus on rural access can unduly overshadow the importance of urban energy access. Looking at access to electricity, although most unelectrified households are currently rural (around 550 million people are unelectrified), urban electrification rates are not high – often well below 50% – and currently around 150 million urban dwellers have no access to electricity[2]. Between 2035 and 2040 Africa’s population is expected to become predominately urban[3].  Modelling undertaken by Sustainable Energy Africa as part of the SAMSET project[4] indicates that the future energy demand of Sub-Saharan Africa is likely to be substantially urban, with the urban share of total demand rising to over 75% by 2040 (see Figure).  We should not overlook that there are huge opportunities to boost access to modern energy in urban areas. It is in urban areas that populations are closer to infrastructure, more dense, with higher average incomes and where delivery systems can be more cost-effective.  It is in urban areas also where the very poor can be the most destitute, with reduced access even to traditional biomass energy.   It seems justifiable to encourage a parallel focus on rural and urban access in a sector where ‘access’ currently seems almost entirely synonymous with ‘rural access’.

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Figure: Urban sub-Saharan energy demand over time showing Business-as-Usual, Universal Access and Energy Efficiency scenarios. Total sub-Saharan Africa energy demand (urban and rural) is also shown (Source: Modelling the Urban Energy Future of Sub-Saharan Africa, Sustainable Energy Africa, 2015).

One more point worth considering regarding the urban-rural population dynamic: At a recent course SAMSET was running for municipal officials and urban energy practitioners, a lecturer asked “how many of you are first generation urban, or still consider your ‘home’ to be in a rural area?”.  The majority raised their hand. There may be various implications of this characteristic: urban-rural remittances are likely to remain common into the medium-term, which could facilitate rural energy access with small decentralized technologies such as PV being funded from urban earners for their rural homes and families.  On the other hand remittances may reduce investment in urban areas, which may impact to some extent on urban economies and possibly also the willingness to invest in urban energy infrastructure.  Let’s keep an eye on how this dynamic plays itself out over the coming years.

[1] World Energy Council Secretary General reflects on key highlights of 2016. Africa Energy Indaba Press Release, 12 January 2017

[2] Calculation from IEA’s African Energy Outlook 2014 electrification database.

[3] African Urban Futures 2016, Bello-Schünemann and Aucoin; State of African Cities 2014, UN Habitat

[4] Modelling the Urban Energy Future of Sub-Saharan Africa, Sustainable Energy Africa, 2015. www.africancityenergy.org

Kampala CPD Course Plenary Sessions and Group Work – Days 2 – 5

The SAMSET Project hosted a continuing professional development course at Victoria University in Kampala, Uganda from the 7th – 11th November 2016. As shown in the previous post, the urban energy management issues present today in Kampala make the city an appropriate place to discuss the future of sustainable urban energy transitions.

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The Hon. Dr Chris Baryomunsi, Minister of State for Housing, addressing the opening of the CPD Course. Image: Daniel Kerr

The course was opened with an address from the Hon. Dr Chris Baryomunsi, who gave an address on the overarching issues facing urban Kampala today, include economic growth, population growth and land management. The first plenary day of the course focused on resource efficiency in energy planning and management in the urban sphere. The presentations on this day focused on the mandate that municipal officials have in the energy space (or lack thereof) and a focused discussion on the importance of data in energy planning, as well as case studies of successful initiatives in other Sub-Saharan African cities and the challenges they faced. The city of Cape Town was presented as a successful sustainable transitions case study, with the presentation from Sumaya Mohamed from the City of Cape Town Energy Authority detailing a number of the successful interventions the city has implemented, including electrification of “backyarder” properties and the development of the metropolitan bus transit system. The place of data was also highlighted through Adrian Stone from Sustainable Energy Africa’s exercise, encouraging participants to analyse and discuss data from a recent Jinja state of energy survey themselves.

The second day of the course focused on participation and key stakeholders in energy management, and methods to identify the stakeholders through network mapping, as well as to what extent these stakeholders and able (or willing) to advocate for energy transitions. Presentations on this day focused on the realities of bringing sustainable planning into action, whilst managing competing demands, with experiences and cases from the SAMSET Ghanaian partner municipalities, Awutu Senya East and Ga East, as well as from the Ugandan partner municipalities Jinja and Kasese. The closing keynote was presented by David Kasimbazi, head of the Centre for Urban Governance and Development at Victoria University, on the definitions of governance and good governance, and how this affects sustainable energy transitions in cities.

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Urban energy budgetary planning group session, led by Gamos. Image: Daniel Kerr

The third day of the course focused on the place that policy and regulatory frameworks can have in sustainable urban energy transitions. Presentations focused both on high-level policy and regulatory mechanisms, as well as technology-specific interventions in the urban sphere. The morning presentation from Vincent Agaba of the Real Estate Agents of Uganda was particularly relevant, in offering a property developer’s perspective in the sustainable transitions space, and the definitions of enabling environments in the space for developers. The afternoon saw Simon Batchelor from Gamos conduct a Netmapping exercise, a tool which the organisation has developed over many years, to identify the key stakeholders in the urban energy space, both in the partner municipalities outside Uganda and in Jinja and Kasese, as well as within the city

Day four of the course was centred around the theme of “Build(ing) Resilience”, with presentations focusing on designing and building with people, as well as ensuring resilience in design and sustainability. Key themes covered in the presentations included environmentally conscious design, with cases from local as well as international buildings, presented by Mark Olweny of Uganda Martyrs University, as well as innovative outreach initiatives for building support for sustainable energy transitions, and the use of the tourism sector as a driver of sustainable transitions, presented by Herbert Candia of Uganda Martyrs University.

The SAMSET Project will be hosting a third and final CPD course in Accra, Ghana from the 26th – 30th June 2017. More information on the course will be available both on this blog, as well as the project website, and the project Twitter.

Daniel Kerr, UCL Energy Institute

Sub Saharan African local government and SDG 7 – is there a link?

Megan Euston-Brown from SEA writes on the importance of considering local government spheres in sustainable energy development in light of the recent UN Sustainable Development Goals 7.

Building an urban energy picture for Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) is a relatively new endeavour, but policy makers would do well to take heed of the work underway [1]. The emerging picture indicates that current levels of energy consumption in the urban areas of SSA is proportionally higher than population and GDP [2]. These areas represent dense nodes of energy consumption. Africa’s population is expected to nearly double from 2010 to 2040 with over 50% of population urbanized by 2040 (AfDB 2011). Thus by 2040 it is likely that well over 50% of the energy consumed in the region will be consumed within urban areas. Strategies to address energy challenges – notably those contained within SDG 7 relating to the efficient deployment of clean energy and energy access for all – must therefore be rooted in an understanding of the end uses of energy in these localities for effective delivery.

SDGs

Analyses of the end uses of energy consumption in urban SSA generally indicate the overwhelming predominance of the transport sector. Residential and commercial sectors follow as prominent demands. Cooking, water heating, lighting and space cooling are high end use applications. Industrial sector energy consumption is of course critical to the economy, but is generally a relatively small part of the urban energy picture (either through low levels of industrialisation or energy intensive heavy industries lying outside municipal boundaries).

Spatial form and transport infrastructure are strong drivers of urban transport energy demand. Meeting the ‘low carbon’ challenge in SSA will depend on zoning and settlement patterns (functional densities), along with transport infrastructure, that enables, continues to prioritise and greatly improve, public modalities. These approaches will also build greater social inclusion and mobility.

The high share of space heating, ventilation and lighting end uses of total urban energy demand points to the significant role of the built environment in urban end use energy consumption.

These drivers of energy demand are areas that intersect strongly with local government functions and would not be addressed through a traditional supply side energy policy [3]. Understanding the local mandate in this regard will be important in meeting national and global sustainable energy targets.

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Urban highway in Ghana. Image: Dennis Mokoala)

The goal of access to modern, safe energy sources is predominantly a national supply-side concern. However, with the growth of decentralised systems (and indeed household or business unit scale systems being increasingly viable) local government may have a growing role in this area. In addition an energy services approach that supplements energy supply with services such as solar water heating, or efficiency technologies (e.g. LED lighting), may draw in local government as the traditionally mandated service delivery locus of government.

An analysis of the mandate of local government with regard to sustainable energy development across Ghana, South Africa and Uganda indicates:

  1. National constitutional objectives provide a strong mandate for sustainable development, environmental protection and energy access and local government would need to interpret their functions through this constitutional ‘lens’;
  2. Knowing the impact of a fossil fuel business-as-usual trajectory on local and global environments, local government would be constitutionally obliged to undertake their activities in a manner that supports a move towards a lower carbon energy future;
  3. Infrastructure and service delivery would need to support the national commitments to energy access for all;
  4. Decentralisation of powers and functions to local government is a principle across the three countries reviewed, but the degree of devolution of powers differs and will affect the ability of local government to proactively engage in new approaches;
  5. Existing functional areas where local government may have a strong influence in supporting national and global SDG 7 (sustainable energy) targets include: municipal facilities and operations, basic services (water, sanitation, and in some instances energy/electricity) and service infrastructure, land use planning (zoning and development planning approval processes), urban roads and public transport services and building control.
  6. Where local government has a strong service delivery function it is well placed to be a site of delivery for household energy services and to play a role in facilitating embedded generation. New technologies may mean that smaller, decentralised electricity systems offer greater resilience and cost effectiveness over large systems in the face of rapid demand growth. These emerging areas will require policy development and support.

In practice the ability of local government to respond to these mandates is constrained by the slow or partial implementation of administrative and fiscal decentralisation in the region. Political support of longer-term sustainable urban development pathways is vital. Experience in South Africa suggests that the process is dynamic and iterative: as experience, knowledge and capacity develops locally in relation to sustainable energy functions, so the national policy arena begins to engage with this. Thus, while international programmes and national policy would do well to engage local government towards meeting SDG 7, local government also needs to proactively build its own capacity to step into the space.

[1] In South Africa this work has been underway since 2003; SAMSET is pioneering such work in Ghana and in Uganda and the World Bank’s ESMAP has explored this area in Ghana, Ethiopia and Kenya. SAMSET is also undertaking a continent-wide urban energy futures model.

[2] Working Paper: An exploration of the sustainable energy mandate at the local government level in Sub-Saharan Africa, with a focus on Ghana, South Africa and Uganda. Euston-Brown, Bawakyillenuo, Ndibwambi and Agbelie (2015).

[3] Noting that not all drivers of energy demand intersect with local government functions, for example, increasing income will drive a shift to energy intensive private transport; and that population and economic growth will always be the overarching drivers of demand.

Why Waste That Energy?

Simon Batchelor from Gamos writes on the SAMSET team’s visit to Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality’s Simmer and Jack waste-to-energy facility.

As a part of the Africities Summit 2015 (Mark Borchers’ previous blog), we visited the Simmer and Jack Landfill site to see an example of a waste to energy facility. Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality is not part of the SAMSET programme of work, however they were kind enough to host a site visit to the 1MW landfill gas to electricity plant at the Simmer and Jack landfill site in Germiston, Johannesburg. This project, which was commissioned in September 2014, has reduced electricity purchases from Eskom by 7 GWh/year. The gas capture has also greatly improved local air quality and the environmental conditions of the communities living alongside or nearby the site.

The work in Germiston had already been used as a case study for the Urban Energy Support programme, funded by the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) in partnership with SAGEN. SAGEN is the South African German Energy Programme implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). Sustainable Energy Africa (SEA) was commissioned by GIZ to develop the case studies, in close partnership with SALGA and GIZ.

We compiled a video made up of information from the case study and video footage taken during the site visit, which we hope will enhance the original case study.

At a recent professional development meeting for DFID (UK Aid) staff (Feb 2016), the video was shown and used as a discussion point on waste by Prof D Wilson, Visiting Professor in Waste Management at Imperial College London. Many of the SAMSET municipalities are concerned with waste management and as cities grow it is an increasing problem. Perhaps more of this utilization of the gas would turn a problem into an opportunity.

Africities, 2063, and Time

This is a joint blog by Simon Batchelor from Gamos and Sumaya Mahomed, Professional Officer in Renewable and Energy Efficiency in the Cape Town Municipality.

At the recent Africities conference, some of the SAMSET researchers had a conversation with municipal partners, and this article tries to capture its essence.  Their subject – timescales.

In the development sector, donors, civil society, NGOs, researchers, all tend to speak in terms of 1 to 3 years projects. While the planning processes of logical frameworks and business cases allows for an impact after the project end, there are few agencies willing to commit to more than 3 years. SAMSET is actually a four year project and in that sense quite rare.  Most of the other USES projects were 1 to 3 years. Yet within SAMSET is the aspiration to assist our partner municipalities to gather data, create a state of energy report, to model the future (based on that data), to take decisions and create a strategy for ‘energy transitions’. And, within the timeframe of the project, to take some first steps in that strategy, some actions.

In a slight contrast to this, Africities has as its slogan – “SHAPING THE FUTURE OF AFRICA WITH THE PEOPLE: THE CONTRIBUTION OF AFRICAN LOCAL AUTHORITIES TO AGENDA 2063 OF THE AFRICAN UNION.”. It is looking at 2063!  That is (nearly) a fifty year horizon. Africities knows that municipal planning, changes in infrastructure, raising the finance for those changes, takes decades not years.

SAMSET is funded by UK donors and some of the researchers come from the UK, so lets take the London Cross rail link as an example. First of all, lets remember that the essence of London Underground – the transport system that effectively keeps London working – that the essence was established in 1863 (The Metropolitan Railway, using gas-lit wooden carriages hauled by steam locomotives!). That’s nearly one hundred and fifty years ago. The cross link is a new tunnel that will join east London (the banking and business hub) to west London, and beyond. This tunnel has to go ‘in a straight line’ while at the same time missing existing underground tunnels, water mains, etc. At times it will be created just 1 metre from an existing underground structure.

So its perhaps surprising that it was apparently first mentioned in 1941, was written on a plan in 1943, serious consultations in the seventies, serious proposals in the nineties, commercial proposal in 2001, and decided on in 2005 (10 years ago) and construction started 2009. Despite the huge advances in tunnelling, it will still take another 5 years to complete.

And of course it is only one part of an ongoing dynamic change in infrastructure of one of the worlds leading cities.

So imagine now trying to raise funding for a Bus Rapid Transport system in Polokwane. The changes will require that roads be changed, new lanes created, negotiations with landowners of key areas, procurement of the equipment. It is not surprising that it has taken over 9 years since serious planning started (2006), and that it will take until 2020 before it is fully implemented, with all the associated traffic disruption of road works etc. Infrastructure in cities takes time to change.

SAMSET modelling shows what the energy consumption of a partner city might look like in 2030. It starts with a ‘business as usual’ model and then explores possible changes, assisting the partners to identify a key change that will make a good (low carbon) longer term change. In the case of Cape Town, the municipality asked for projections to 2040, as the felt 2030 was too close. The timescales in municipality minds are of 10 year, 20 year projects, not 1 to 3 year disconnected projects.

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Figure 1 Cape Town Growth in energy consumption per sector for ‘business as usual’ scenario.

And consider the energy impact of a building. A building will last 40 years or more, so if planning permission is given to an energy inefficient glass tower, the air-con commitment is there until 2063.

So municipal planning has a very long term view. Of course in a counter flow to this long view of the municipal civil servants are the politicians who have a very short term view. Politicians are often concerned with short term benefits and easy wins, so they or their party gets re-elected.  For city planners it is a difficult balance.

So when we think of energy transitions what is the right timescale? Well in a complex world we have to think of all the actors, their different needs and juggle all of them together. We do need to find early easy wins so that donors to research projects and politicians are happy enough to fund a phase two.  We do need to build capacity so that despite the movement of people from job to job, a municipality gradually gains the required skills to consult, plan and implement longer term energy transitions.  And we do need to have a long term view. Building infrastructure, even building buildings, commits a city to a particular energy path for decades not just years, and so those long term implications need to be taken into account.

Waste-to-energy paradigm: Opportunities for African cities to transform their energy landscapes

Xavier Lemaire from UCL and Simon Bawakyillenuo & Innocent Agbelie from the University of Ghana ISSER recently collaborated on this post for the UrbanAfrica.net website. The original post can be found at: http://www.urbanafrica.net/urban-voices/waste-to-energy-african-cities-can-transform-their-energy-landscapes/, reproduced in full below.

The critical issue of waste management

Waste management is a critical issue for most African cities as a result of the huge generation of mountains of waste stemming from increases in urban populations over the last few decades, coupled with access to consumer goods by a fast-growing middle class. And waste generation is expected to increase rapidly in the future. City authorities are therefore faced with the challenge of managing urban waste with limited resources at their disposal.

The extent of this challenge is made clear by an Africa Review Report on Waste Management in African cities, which notes that less than half of waste is being collected, the rest being dumped in the urban landscape [1]. Accra alone generates approximately 1000 tonnes of waste per day at an annual generation rate of 3.7×104 Tons/year while the existing collection capacity can only keep up with about 55% of this amount (Fobil (2000). This means that an excess of 1.7×104 Tons/year is left to accumulate in the core areas of the city for several months [2]. In the wake of this finding, Obour (2012) described the city of Accra as almost engulfed in filth [3].

Unsustainable waste management has adverse consequences on the environment including the breeding of mosquito and related diseases, emission of obnoxious odours and methane, and flooding through choked drainage systems [4]. These waste-related problems are not uncommon in most African cities and city authorities are seeking sustainable waste-management solutions. Indeed, unraveling sustainable solutions for efficient waste management is one of the top priorities of the two municipalities in Ghana that are partners to the “Supporting Sub-Saharan Africa’s Municipalities with Sustainable Energy Transitions (SAMSET)” project.

Sustainable waste management practices

The most sustainable waste management practices are waste reduction and waste recycling as shown in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1:  Hierarchy of sustainable waste management

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Source: Adapted from Rodriguez, 2011.

Effective waste recycling ultimately leads to waste reduction. It is possible to recycle completely a waste product only when the production and marketing processes themselves have integrated the target of 100% recycling as the ultimate goal of the design of the value chain, making it possible to generate money from the recycling activity itself (and allowing the recycling activity not just being an end of chain cost).

In most African cities, little is done and far little is happening currently in the areas of waste reduction and waste recycling as waste management practices. Sadly, waste management practices in Africa can be placed in the first and second rungs from the bottom of the hierarchy of sustainable waste management (Figure 1). It has to be noted that, another waste management practice that is common in African cities is composting, that is, turning the by-products of organic waste into manure for agricultural activities. Most companies that have taken such initiatives have quit in many countries due to low patronage of such compost products. It is, however, flourishing in other countries such as Uganda and parts of South Africa, like Cape Town.

Opportunities and potentials for waste-to-energy in African Cities

Using waste to create energy is a viable option for most African cities. Waste can be incinerated to produce heat or electricity; and methane can be collected from landfills and be used to, again, generate heat or electricity.

There is high level of organic content of waste generated in most African cities. In Ghana, for example, about 66% of the total waste generated is organic, as shown in Figure 2 below.

Figure 2: Waste type and composition in Ghana

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Source: Zoomlion Ghana Limited (2013).

Any organic waste from urban and rural areas as well as industries is a resource due to its ability to degrade and release methane, which can be used for energy generation. The problems caused by solid and liquid wastes can be significantly mitigated through the adoption of environmentally-friendly waste-to-energy technologies that will allow treatment and processing of wastes before their disposal.

Waste-to-energy is a win-win endeavour. As a sustainable waste management system it produces energy that can be sold for economic gains for the producer. It also provides green jobs. While it is thought that such projects are highly technical and often require imported skilled labour and technology from developed countries, local people, especially “waste scavengers,” can be employed and use their skills. It seems unlikely that municipalities themselves or international corporations can deal with waste. Involving local entrepreneurs in the process is fundamental [5] and can be extended to entrepreneurs from informal settlements [6].

Most cities in Africa already use landfill waste disposal systems. City-owned vehicles, such as trucks, can be used for waste-to-energy projects to cut costs. The problem in most African cities, however, is waste sorting. Waste is often not sorted at the collection points hence all kinds of waste end up at the depositing site. Tying economic benefits to sorting of waste at the households level and effective education of the general public on the need for proper waste sorting can help the course of waste-to-energy in most African cities.

Prospects for waste-to-energy in Africa

All landfills generate methane, so there are many opportunities to reduce methane emissions by flaring or collecting methane for energy generation. As mentioned previously, there are two main technological options to transform waste into energy, both of which can be used to create heat or electricity: incineration or collection of methane. Often proposed by Western companies, the incineration technology can be quite costly to build, relies on imported technologies, and requires the collection of huge amount of waste from vast catchment areas. Huge catchments areas imply that there will be high costs related to logistics, while fleets of trucks could contribute to road congestion.

Production of energy from landfill requires certain technical skills, which can only be acquired through training and experience. Methane is a potent heat-trapping gas (more than 20 times stronger than carbon dioxide) and has a short atmospheric life (10 to 14 years) [7]. Therefore, reducing methane emissions from municipal solid waste landfills through a Landfill Gas project is one of the sustainable means to lessen the human impact on global climate change. In addition, a Landfill Gas project, during its operational lifetime, will capture an estimated 60 to 90 percent of the methane created by a landfill, depending on system design and effectiveness. The methane captured is converted to water and carbon dioxide when the gas is burned to produce electricity or heat.

Unfortunately, there is no one best technological fixed solution. Each municipality has to find a specific mix of options, combining the appropriate technologies with existing social agencies to be able to tackle progressively – after a series of trials, successes and errors – this problem. Indeed, there have been many trials and failed waste to energy projects in Africa. That notwithstanding, many opinion groups, private organisations, international organisations and governments in most African countries are still enthusiastic about sustainable waste management practices.

It is therefore imperative for city authorities to make strategic choices about the types of socio-technical solutions that can be implemented realistically, taking into account their financial and social long-term sustainability. This is to avoid repeats of failure of waste-to-energy projects funded by international organisations in Africa. Suffice to mention that waste management is a complex issue that must involve contributions from a variety of stakeholders from local communities to policy-makers including industries and farmers for success to prevail.

Key among the ways African cities can transform their energy landscape through waste-to-energy is political and institutional commitment. It is encouraging to note that in recent times a lot of governments in Africa are gradually embracing the Green Growth development pathway, with some having already mainstreamed Green Economy actions in their national development plans. These steps give signal great prospects for waste-to-energy development in Africa because Green Growth developmental actions entail foster economic, social and environmental development. Thus, in the not too distant future, it is envisaged that a wave of different waste-to-energy projects could spring up across African cities when emphasis is not only placed on the cost component of waste-to-energy, but both the environment and social benefits as well.

References

[1] Sixth Session of the Food Security and Sustainable Development. Africa Review Report on Waste Management – Main report, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 27-30 October 2009.  http://www.uneca.org/publications/africa-review-report-waste-management-main-report

[2] Fobil, J. N. (2002). Proceedings of International Symposium on Environmental Pollution Control and Waste Management 7-10 January 2002, Tunis (EPCOWM’2002), p.193-205.

[3] Obour, S.K. (2012). “Accra Sinks under Filth”. The Mirror, Saturday, September 15, 2012, pp.24.

[4] Dr Simon Bawakyillenuo and Innocent Komla Agbelie, Waste as a Resource for Energy Generation in the Ga East and Awutu Senya  East Municipalities: the Policy Discourse. University of Ghana, SAMSET project, 2014, http://samsetproject.site11.com/outputs/

[5] Un-Habitat, Note on Urbanisation Challenges, Waste Management, and Development, 12-14 February 2014, Mauritius. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/intcoop/acp/2014_mauritius/pdf/un_habitat_presentation_en.pdf

[6] Towards social inclusion and protection of informal waste pickers and recyclers – waste collection project proposal for and professional support provided to small entrepreneurs by the eThewini municipality. ENDA – IWPAR Best practices #9 www.iwpar.org

[7] Landfill Gas Energy Basics. Available at: http://www.epa.gov/methane/lmop/documents/pdfs/pdh_chapter1.pdf