Articles Posted in the Renewable energy category

African projects win green energy awards

June 16, 2009
Posted in Renewable energy

Cooking with briquettes made from agricultural waste

A woman cooks with briquettes made from agricultural waste. The briquettes are clean, easy to handle and reduce cooking time. Photo courtesy Ashden Awards

In a continent where millions of people have no access to the electricity grid or simply cannot afford to pay for electricity, small-scale  energy options can have a huge impact in improving the quality of people’s lives. They also play an important role in combating climate change.

Last week the UK-based Ashden Awards gave prizes to two African energy projects that are inspiring examples of how local sustainable energy can make a difference. A Ugandan company producing briquettes from agricultural waste and a rural solar energy project in Ethiopia each were awarded  £20,000 (R260,000). Another award-winner with an African connection is a joint US/Chinese cooking stove scheme that is bringing social and environmental benefits to African countries, including South Africa


Briquettes made from agricultural waste. Photo courtesy Ashden Awards

KJS's briquettes. The company sells 130 tonnes a month and hopes to expand to other African markets. Photo courtesy Ashden Awards

Kampala Jellitone Suppliers (KJS), a Ugandan coffee-processing company, won an Ashden award for “avoided deforestation” for its briquettes made from the residue left after processing commercial crops, such as rice and peanut husks, coffee pulp and maize stalks.

The company sells 130 tonnes of briquettes every month, along with improved stoves that burn the briquettes more cleanly and efficiently, to schools, universities and hospitals for cooking, and to five factories for producing heat.

In climate terms, this saves 6.1 tons of carbon dioxide per ton of briquettes used, or 9,300 tons of carbon dioxide a year, according to an Ashden Awards press release.

“Using our briquettes reduces the pressure on wood resources and thus reduces deforestation, which is a serious and growing problem – particularly around Kampala [the country’s capital],” said Abasi Kazibwe Musisi, managing director of KJS. “The agricultural residues used to make briquettes were previously burned as they were regarded as waste.”

A traditional home with a photovoltaic panel attached to the roof in Rema, Ethiopia. Photo courtesy Ashden Awards.

A traditional home with a photovoltaic panel attached to the roof in Rema, Ethiopia. Photo courtesy Ashden Awards.


Samson Tsegaye of the Solar Energy Foundation with a solar light. Photo courtesy Ashden Awards

Samson Tsegaye of the Solar Energy Foundation with a solar light. Photo courtesy Ashden Awards

The Solar Energy Foundation, a non-governmental organisation established in 2006, has won the Ashden prize for rural electrification for installing more than 2,000 small solar energy systems in two remote Ethiopian villages, bringing electricity to these communites for the first time.

The 10,000-plus villagers living in Rema and Rema ena Dire, in Ethiopia’s northern highlands, five hours’ drive from Addis Ababa, previously depended on smoky kerosene lamps and candles for their lighting. They reportedly turned down the offer of free diesel generators in favour of solar power.

The villagers pay a monthly fee of about $1 to cover maintenance and repairs to keep the solar systems running. The village committee manages payments and employs nine local people as fee collectors.

“The solar programme has helped develop the community in many ways,” said Samson Tsegaye, the Ethiopian country representative of SEF.

“The local women’s association has set up a popular night school for uneducated adults to improve literacy. School children can now study in the evenings and one teacher claims her pupils’ grades have improved by 75 percent as a result. Fewer people are suffering from eye and respiratory problems associated with kerosene smoke.”

The foundation also has installed a solar-powered water pump in Rema to provide fresh drinking water, saving the villagers from having to walk for two hours to collect water.

“We now have a special financing system in place that will allow us to establish a network of Solar Centres all over Ethiopia over the coming years. Our aim is to initiate self-supporting solar businesses across Ethiopia – and to make ourselves superfluous as an NGO,” said Dr Harald Schützeichel, who established the foundation.


Workers pack affordable efficient stoves for export at Shengzhou Stove Manufacturer's factory in China. Photo courtesy Ashden Awards

Workers pack affordable efficient stoves for export at Shengzhou Stove Manufacturer's factory in China. Photo courtesy Ashden Awards

Domestic coal stoves mass produced by a joint venture between the US-based Aprovecho Research Center (ARC) and Shengzhou Stove Manufacturer (SSM) in China, were named Ashden energy champions last week. Each stove is said to prevent around 1.5 tonnes a year of carbon dioxide from being emitted and reduces toxic emissions by well over half.

About half the world still cooks with biomass or coal, using open fires or traditional stoves. The resulting emissions cause indoor air pollution, leading to serious eye and respiratory problems and kill around 1.5 million people a year, mainly children and women.

The emissions also contribute to climate change. The collection of firewood often leads to deforestation and erosion and is an additional and demanding chore for women.

Tests on the ARC/SSM stoves indicate major environmental benefits and health gains for users: reductions of up to 50% percent in fuelwood use and 70 percent carbon monoxide and particulate emissions compared to a traditional fire.

The stoves are manufactured in China by SSM and sold to distributors around the world — 60,000 stoves have been sold since 2008. They are used in countries including Argentina, Chile, India, Tanzania, Madagascar and South Africa.

Ester Konene, a South African householder who tested an ARC/SSM stove, said: “I used to use two litres of kerosene a day, costing $1.50 (R12). Now a 5kg pack of wood costing US $2.40 (R19) lasts three days. There are no emission problems. I wouldn’t want to give it back.”

For information on other 2009 Ashden Award winners click here

Budget: Coal still gets more support than clean

February 16, 2009
Posted in Business, Renewable energy

coal-fired-plantEnvironmental organisation WWF South Africa has welcomed the taxes targeting “unsustainable spending” in this year’s Budget, but says that the government needs to help to reduce the cost of sustainable alternatives by providing renewable energy with the same finance support it gives to fossil fuel.

The group describes as “very positive moves” the carbon tax on new vehicles, which means that people who buy the most fuel-efficienct vehicles will pay less tax; the increase in the fuel levy; the levy on inefficient incandescent light-bulbs; the tax breaks for investments in energy efficiency; and the clarity on tax exemption for carbon credits, which encourages the generation of carbon credit and greenhouse gas savings, but not speculation in carbon credit.

But the government has agreed to guarantee R176-billion worth of debt for the national power utility, Eskom, in order to reduce the cost of finance for its R343-billion investment, most of which will go towards financing massive new coal power stations.

Peet du Plooy, WWF’s Trade and Investment Advisor in South Africa, says: “It would not be reasonable in a country that pursues climate leadership, to exclude the renewable energy sector from the same much-needed finance support that government is extending, via Eskom, to investment in fossil fuel infrastructure.”

“WWF does not support the planning basis for the present Eskom expansion, or the selection of conventional coal technology as a result of such planning. However, if this public investment were accepted as a ship that’s already sailed, there is still a case to be made that the same provisions should also be available to guarantee the finance of clean, renewable energy,” says Du Plooy.

Motor vehicle manufacturing, airlines and mining, “some of the most environmentally risky industries”, have also received support worth billions of rands in this year’s Budget, the WWF points out in a statement.

Photo by Arnold Paul, licensed under Creative Commons Atr

The organisation also says that the R6.4 billion that will be made available for public transport, roads and rail infrastructure would be made more sustainable if the money were “channelled more towards public transport and rail infrastructure rather than roads”.

Du Plooy also said that: “A tax on emissions-intensive industries like private cars or fossil-fuelled electricity, should be balanced with incentives for job-intensive, low-emissions alternatives like public transport and renewable energy.”

Source: WWF

Photo by Arnold Paul licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5

De Lille calls for more renewables

February 9, 2009
Posted in Renewable energy

The global economic crisis was an exciting opportunity for South Africa to make massive investments in renewable energy and position itself as a world leader in combatting climate change, Patricia de Lille, the leader of the Independent Democrats, said in a speech in Parliament today.

Investing in renewable energy would create hundreds of thousands of jobs and provide sustainable energy for our people, she said.

“There is no reason why South Africa cannot be one of the world leaders in terms of renewable energy.”

“This would enable us to develop skills, where hundreds of thousands of our people will be able to become plumbers, electricians, solar power installers and wind turbine technicians.”

She said that Germany had created a quarter of a million jobs in its renewable energy industry in only 10 to 15 years.

But South Africa needs leadership, political will and budgetary resources if it is to carve a place for itself in this industry.

She said that the fact that the government had set a target to have one million solar water heaters installed in three years and had only succeeded in installing 800 in the first year was evidence that the “government is not serious”.

De Lille called on the government to suspend all spending on projects like the pebble-bed modular reactor, the conventional nuclear and arms industries, “which create very few jobs and waste billions of rand on foreign companies”.

Source: Politicsweb

Will Obama lead the world to greener pastures?

November 3, 2008
Posted in Green News

Tomorrow Americans will vote for someone to replace George Bush as their president and whoever wins will be an improvement on the incumbent – there can’t be much doubt about that.

For the past eight years, the Texas oilman’s administration has been an obstacle in the way of a global climate change deal. Despite scientific consensus that human activity is causing the global average temperature to rise, Mr Bush has folded his arms and told the world: “I’m not going to tidy up my mess until China does”.

The leader of the last superpower – whose country has only recently been knocked off the top spot as world greenhouse gas emitter number one by China, according to some accounts, but whose per capita emissions are far higher than China’s – was only prepared to do things on his own terms in a case of “we look after our own interests first and to hell with the rest of you”.  Not the best example to set if you want to persuade developing countries, such as China, India and even South Africa, not to follow your own easier, cheaper, carbon-intensive path to economic development.

But things appear to be looking up. The belligerent Mr Bush will be replaced in the White House very shortly by someone who actually accepts the scientific evidence that climate change is caused by human activity.

Both Barack Obama, the Democrat, and John McCain, the Republican, have said they want a cap-and-trade system to cut US emissions. Obama’s ambitions are greater. He has said he wants US greenhouse gas emissions to be cut by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. McCain is looking at cuts of 60 percent. Obama has said he would auction off all the available emissions credits, McCain would be more generous to polluters, giving away many emissions credits at first and phasing in auctions.

Renewable energy will play a significant role in Obama’s climate change plans. He has said he will invest R150-billion dollars over the next 10 years in renewable energy sources – which will create 5-million green jobs. And has set a target that 25 percent of US electricity needs will be met by renewable sources by 2025.

McCain’s preference is for the building of new nuclear power stations and “clean coal”. The US apparently hasn’t built a new nuclear power station since 1978 – although nuclear apparently still accounts for 20 percent of US electricity output – but, according to reports, McCain wants 45 new nuclear power stations by 2030. He also proposes spending $2-billion a year on research into clean coal technologies.

Obama is said to have expressed reservations about nuclear safety and on how to deal with radioactive waste – but he’s not entirely opposed to nuclear power. Neither is he opposed to “clean coal” technologies, which may be a bit of a disappointment for environmentalists. But as an article in Grist points out, if he wants to win the election he’ll need more than the green vote – which he apparently has in the bag anyway, regardless of his position on coal.

What the new man in the White Houses decides to do about climate change will more than likely determine whether the target of keeping the global average temperature increase to below 2 degrees Celcius can be met or not.

For Africa, US climate change policy could influence whether tens of millions of people suffer water shortages as rainfall patterns change and drops in food yields put millions at risk of famine. Africa is responsible for a tiny fraction of the emissions that are causing the Earth’s climate the change, yet it will bear a disproportionate amount of the impacts, say scientists – and it is the continent least able to afford to deal with them.

But it’s not just Africa that will suffer, half the world still lives on less than $2 a day and does so only by subsisting on natural resources provided by the environment, the WWF says in a Greenprint it has drawn up for a new US administration.

Climate change, natural resource exhaustion and ecosystem collapse are “among the most profound and long-term threats to peace and security in the 21st century. The conflict imperiling the planet in the coming millennium is less likely to be between nations than between man and nature,” the WWF report says.

“And the United States is still the only nation capable of exerting the leadership needed to mobilise the globe into confronting these challenges.” But it needs to drop its old-fashioned Cold War approach to foreign policy and look more closely at issues such as climate change, global food and water security and natural resource conservation, says the WWF.

Experts say that there is no way to keep the global average temperature increase under 2 degrees Celcius unless the big emitters, like the US, start taking action immediately. The industrialised nations have an obligation to lead the way to a low carbon economy because they are responsible for the build-up of greenhouses gases in the atmosphere to date and they have the technological and economic capacity to move the world to a low-carbon economy.

John P Holdren, a professor of environmental policy at Harvard University and director of the Woods Hole Research Centre, wrote in Scientific American recently that it was now time for the US to start to lead the world. “That is the best remaining hope for averting global climate catastrophe.”

Holdren added that if the US finally stepped up to the plate, the rest of the world would follow. “In my judgment, if the US finally takes the lead, the EU will quickly adopt an economy-wide approach. So will Japan, and probably Russia,” he wrote. And, he added, that there’s a good chance that the Chinese, Indians, Brazilians and Indonesians will follow.

South Africa has already expressed a willingness to rein in its emissions, but it wants the industrialised countries to show their willingness to take responsibility for leading the change and financing the solutions.

For the world’s environment and many of the people who depend on it for their livelihoods a lot is at stake in this US election. I’m hoping, along with many other people in Africa, that Barack Obama will win and that, if he does, he won’t let us down.

Sources: Grist, AFP, SciAm, WWF, Barack Obama’s website, John McCain’s website

Photo of Barack Obama by Marc Nozell used under a Creative Commons license

New battery touted as breakthrough for electric cars

September 22, 2008
Posted in Transport

Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries are set to dominate the market for electric cars and bikes, according to Metaefficient. They are apparently the least environmentally toxic of all the battery types, plus they have greater range, power and safety – and faster charging times. There’s a graph comparing the energy density of various battery types in the Metaefficient post as well as a list of the advantages of LiFePO4 batteries. The batteries are apparently widely used in Asia.

Green energy gold rush: but not in Africa

August 14, 2008
Posted in Business

Sustainable energy is attracting a rush of investment, says the UN Environment Programme. Last year, $148-billion in new funding entered the market, up 60 percent from 2006, according to a UNEP-commissioned report, “Global Trends in Sustainable Energy Investment 2008”. But Africa is lagging behind the rest of the world in green energy finance.

Sub-Saharan Africa, “arguably the region that has the most to gain from renewable energy,” remains largely unexploited, says the report. Though it did mention that South Africa’s renewable energy targets and the commissioning of the first wind farm were signs of change. Read more

Investors pledge billions for clean technologies

February 18, 2008
Posted in Business

photograph: iStockphoto.comForty-nine leading US and European institutional investors have pledged to collectively invest $10-billion in clean technologies and energy efficiency over the next two years, and incorporate “green standards” into their investment decisions.

The institutional investors – which together manage more than $1.75-trillion in assets – released a climate change action plan last week at an Investor Summit on Climate Risk hosted in New York by the United Nations Foundation and the Ceres investor coalition.

They want the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to insist that companies listed in New York and elsewhere disclose their exposure to climate change risk. And they want Wall Street analysts, rating agencies and investment banks to analyse and report on the potential impacts of long-term carbon costs, in the range of $20 to $40 per metric ton of CO2, particularly on carbon-intensive investments such as new coal-fired power plants and coal-to-liquid projects, Ceres said in a statement.

They also called on the US Congress to introduce a mandatory national policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90% below 1990 levels by 2050.

“Our goal is to transform the world economy into one that is clean, green and sustainable,” said California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, one of the signatories, who serves on the board of pension funds that collectively manage more than $500-billion in assets.

Via :: The Guardian