How Ethiopia is turn­ing trash into en­ergy

SO­LU­TION Ad­dis Ababa-based en­tre­pre­neur tack­les garbage prob­lem with power plant

Business Daily (Kenya) - - NEWS INDEPTH - WEF

Africa is the world’s fastest-ur­ban­is­ing con­ti­nent. But while city life has helped lift mil­lions out of poverty, the rapid trans­for­ma­tion has cre­ated a new prob­lem: moun­tains of ur­ban waste. Now an Ethiopian en­tre­pre­neur is tack­ling the cri­sis with Africa’s first waste-toen­ergy plant, which re­duces nox­ious and dan­ger­ous land­fill while pow­er­ing ur­ban homes.

Sa­muel Ale­mayehu, a Stan­ford en­gi­neer, for­mer Sil­i­con Val­ley en­tre­pre­neur and World Eco­nomic Fo­rum Young Global Leader, says the plant will sup­ply 30 per cent of Ad­dis Ababa’s house­hold en­ergy needs and incin­er­ate roughly 80 per cent of its rub­bish. That’s 1,400 tonnes of waste every day. Ale­mayehu over­sees the $120 mil­lion project as a co-founder of Cam­bridge In­dus­tries, which to­gether with its Chinese JV part­ner CNEEC, has joined the Ethiopian gov­ern­ment and a con­sor­tium of in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies to trans­form the city’s ap­proach to waste.

“We turn one of Africa’s most chal­leng­ing so­cial prob­lems, the man­age­ment of waste, into a source of new wealth,” Cam­bridge In­dus­tries says.

Un­til now, Ad­dis Ababa’s rub­bish was dumped on a vast, ev­er­grow­ing land­fill site that cov­ers an area the size of 36 foot­ball pitches. Leak­ing waste from the site has pol­luted nearby rivers, while the waste it­self pro­duces meth­ane, a pow­er­ful green­house gas. The land­fill is also

very un­sta­ble. In 2017, a land­slide killed 114 peo­ple. It be­came a na­tional tragedy.

At the same time, Ethiopia’s power sup­ply is fail­ing to keep up with break­neck eco­nomic growth of more than 10 per cent every year. The Rep­pie plant, which meets EU emis­sions stan­dards, is de­signed to solve both prob­lems.

The plant burns the cap­i­tal’s rub­bish at a tem­per­a­ture of up to 1,800 de­grees Cel­sius and con­verts it into 185 mil­lion kilo­watt hours of elec­tric­ity per an­num. Rep­pie is part of Ethiopia’s broader plan to boost liv­ing stan­dards while lim­it­ing its emis­sions, a strat­egy it refers to as build­ing a “cli­mate-re­silient green econ­omy”.

This in­cludes a goal to in­vest $2 bil­lion an­nu­ally in ex­pand­ing the coun­try’s re­new­able en­ergy gen­er­a­tion through 2030, dou­ble the cur­rent an­nual spend­ing of $1 bil­lion. The planned fi­nanc­ing will in­clude pri­vate in­vest­ment, cli­mate funds and clean en­ergy sales to neigh­bour­ing coun­tries.

Waste in­cin­er­a­tion is al­ready com­mon in Europe, where nearly a quar­ter of waste is burnt. But in Africa, so far the only ways to dis­pose of rub­bish have been to pile it up, bury it or dump it in rivers and la­goons. The sites at­tract ver­min and are ideal breed­ing grounds for mos­qui­tos, con­tribut­ing to the spread of dis­eases from malaria to yellow fever. The new plant burns rub­bish and uses the heat to boil water. The steam then drives two tur­bine gen­er­a­tors. Mod­ern gas treat­ment tech­nol­ogy re­duces the re­lease of tox­ins dur­ing the process.

“We hope that Rep­pie will serve as a model for other coun­tries in the re­gion, and around the world”, says Zerubabel Getachew, Ethiopia’s deputy per­ma­nent rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the United Na­tions in Nairobi.

Ale­mayehu, a World Eco­nomic Fo­rum Young Global Leader, is al­ready work­ing on ex­pand­ing the reach of re­new­ables on the con­ti­nent. He has plans to con­struct sim­i­lar waste-to-en­ergy plants in Uganda, Kenya, Cameroon, Sene­gal and Dji­bouti.

We hope that Rep­pie will serve as a model for other coun­tries in the re­gion,” ZERUBABEL GETACHEW | ETHIOPIA’S DEPUTY PER­MA­NENT REP­RE­SEN­TA­TIVE TO THE UN IN NAIROBI

FILE

POLLUTION A garbage col­lec­tor at the Dan­dora dump­site in Nairobi.

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