The use of wood chips in Eswatini is on the rise due to increased demand by sugar companies for use in co-generation. Currently the average annual demand for wood chips by the sugar industry is approximately 206 000 tonnes, and so far the timber industry is able to meet this demand. Key players in the timber and sugar industries have established an association that includes among its activities the exploration of power generation opportunities using available biomass resources. The timber industry has the potential to increase the fuel supply to meet new biomass power generation through the provision of wood chips and forestry waste.
Montigny Investment, which operates the Usuthu Saw Mill (formerly Sappi Usuthu), has publicised its intention to develop a 33MW power generation project. The company has attracted interested financiers for the project and is working through negotiations with the SEC to start developing the project.
Biomass accounts for over 60 per cent of Eswatini’s total primary energy supply and comprises mainly traditional biomass and agro-industrial waste for co-generation.
According to statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, fuelwood production in Eswatini has increased 25 per cent in the last decade, reaching 1 093 333 cubic metres in 2012.
Charcoal production increased 50 per cent over the same period, reaching 44 933 tonnes. The country’s total forested area of 624 000 hectares represents 36 per cent of the land area; of the forested total, 464 000 hectares is indigenous forest and woodlands and the rest is commercial forest plantations.
The availability of fuelwood in the country averages 50 per cent, with most of the fuelwood obtained freely from non-commercial communal forests. Approximately 14 per cent of fuelwood is obtained from commercial supply, which is not regulated and is traded uncontrolled.