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Carbon-negative fuel set: burning the world to a better place
A new fuel, made entirely out of elephant grass, recently made headlines after announcing to have developed a potentially major breakthrough solution in combatting climate change. The company is NextFuel, and their home base is Austria - and their fabrication process includes dried elephant grass that is fed into a sealed rotary drum.   It was officially presented at the COP24 climate summit in Poland, aiming to help countries in their   attempt to decarbonise their heavily polluting industries, including the transportation and heat sectors. How is NextFuel made? NextFuel, as the product is called as well, is made by dried elephant grass that is put in a sealed rotary drum. At this stage, all oxygen is removed and the material will be divided into fuel and waste. This only takes some thirty minutes. All waste (mainly gasses) is re-used in the manufacturing plant for the generation of heat of power locally. After that, the fuel part is densified and pressed into briquettes. Next, they will be moved to a cooler. At that stage they are ready to be sold and used in the production of heat or electricity. NextFuel says that these briquettes are perfectly suitable for use in a coal plant, even without having to significantly alter the processes or machines used.   What are the benefits of NextFuel? The main difference? This form of fuel is nowhere near as polluting as the ones that are typically used in coal plants. Or as NextFuel’s chief executive, mr Stefano Romano, proudly claimed: “ For the first time in the history of mankind, we have the ability to produce a cheap and clean copy of fossil fuel.” In an interesting example, NextFuel has calculated that if a cement factory runs on coal-fired power and heat, having this replaced by their alternative fuel will lead to a massive reduction in their annual carbon footprint of 105%. And no, this is not a typo and we do know how percentages work - it will actually render the process carbon negative. Romano explained the workings of this: “ Elephant grass needs a lot of CO2 to grow, and also stores some of this in its roots below ground. In that way, it captures so much carbon from the atmosphere that it can make our entire process carbon-negative in a matter of months. ” The importance of cleaner fuels Stern warnings that we will not hit the targets as set in the  Paris climate agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals have already been given. A large portion of this shortfall can be attributed to the lack of progress made in these highly pollution transportation and heat sectors. This requires quick action on the side of companies active in these industries.   Thankfully, quite a few of them have taken up the challenge. Take British Airways, proponent of the widely polluting aviation industry. They came up with the Future of Fuels challenge, that offers a £25,000 prize to those who come up with an innovative, low-carbon jet fuel; that is capable of powering a long-haul commercial flight for up to 300 customers, while generating no or negative emissions. BA is also working together with the renewable fuel startup Velocys, with the ultimate goal of finding a jet fuel that can be made from household waste , killing two birds with one stone: recycling effectively and cutting back on emissions. Their competitor Virgin Atlantic is working on similar initiatives, including one that fuels jets with recycled industrial waste gases. It is a low-carbon alternative, co-developed by the innovative firm LanzaTech, that has the capacity to partially power a commercial flight from London to Orlando, Florida. In doing so, it cuts back 70% of its emissions when compared to regular jet fuel. Where will it lead? The signs are promising, with various large polluters clearly taking their responsibility and doing their part in creating a fuel that will reduce, if not completely remove, their carbon footprint. As for NextFuel, they are facing a bright - and clean - future as well: production of their innovative clean fuel has been scaled up, following funds received from the European Union.   After that, NextFuel is hoping to power its first two large-scale projects at the end of next year - a cement plant in Africa, and a manufacturing facility in South America. If those implementations are successful, expectations are that a large number of facilities and producers will move to these kind of fuels. Not only will it help them meet the stringent targets set, it will also clean up their production in a significant manner. Reason enough to give the elephant grass a try. https://www.whatsorb.com/category/energy
A new fuel, made entirely out of elephant grass, recently made headlines after announcing to have developed a potentially major breakthrough solution in combatting climate change. The company is NextFuel, and their home base is Austria - and their fabrication process includes dried elephant grass that is fed into a sealed rotary drum.   It was officially presented at the COP24 climate summit in Poland, aiming to help countries in their   attempt to decarbonise their heavily polluting industries, including the transportation and heat sectors. How is NextFuel made? NextFuel, as the product is called as well, is made by dried elephant grass that is put in a sealed rotary drum. At this stage, all oxygen is removed and the material will be divided into fuel and waste. This only takes some thirty minutes. All waste (mainly gasses) is re-used in the manufacturing plant for the generation of heat of power locally. After that, the fuel part is densified and pressed into briquettes. Next, they will be moved to a cooler. At that stage they are ready to be sold and used in the production of heat or electricity. NextFuel says that these briquettes are perfectly suitable for use in a coal plant, even without having to significantly alter the processes or machines used.   What are the benefits of NextFuel? The main difference? This form of fuel is nowhere near as polluting as the ones that are typically used in coal plants. Or as NextFuel’s chief executive, mr Stefano Romano, proudly claimed: “ For the first time in the history of mankind, we have the ability to produce a cheap and clean copy of fossil fuel.” In an interesting example, NextFuel has calculated that if a cement factory runs on coal-fired power and heat, having this replaced by their alternative fuel will lead to a massive reduction in their annual carbon footprint of 105%. And no, this is not a typo and we do know how percentages work - it will actually render the process carbon negative. Romano explained the workings of this: “ Elephant grass needs a lot of CO2 to grow, and also stores some of this in its roots below ground. In that way, it captures so much carbon from the atmosphere that it can make our entire process carbon-negative in a matter of months. ” The importance of cleaner fuels Stern warnings that we will not hit the targets as set in the  Paris climate agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals have already been given. A large portion of this shortfall can be attributed to the lack of progress made in these highly pollution transportation and heat sectors. This requires quick action on the side of companies active in these industries.   Thankfully, quite a few of them have taken up the challenge. Take British Airways, proponent of the widely polluting aviation industry. They came up with the Future of Fuels challenge, that offers a £25,000 prize to those who come up with an innovative, low-carbon jet fuel; that is capable of powering a long-haul commercial flight for up to 300 customers, while generating no or negative emissions. BA is also working together with the renewable fuel startup Velocys, with the ultimate goal of finding a jet fuel that can be made from household waste , killing two birds with one stone: recycling effectively and cutting back on emissions. Their competitor Virgin Atlantic is working on similar initiatives, including one that fuels jets with recycled industrial waste gases. It is a low-carbon alternative, co-developed by the innovative firm LanzaTech, that has the capacity to partially power a commercial flight from London to Orlando, Florida. In doing so, it cuts back 70% of its emissions when compared to regular jet fuel. Where will it lead? The signs are promising, with various large polluters clearly taking their responsibility and doing their part in creating a fuel that will reduce, if not completely remove, their carbon footprint. As for NextFuel, they are facing a bright - and clean - future as well: production of their innovative clean fuel has been scaled up, following funds received from the European Union.   After that, NextFuel is hoping to power its first two large-scale projects at the end of next year - a cement plant in Africa, and a manufacturing facility in South America. If those implementations are successful, expectations are that a large number of facilities and producers will move to these kind of fuels. Not only will it help them meet the stringent targets set, it will also clean up their production in a significant manner. Reason enough to give the elephant grass a try. https://www.whatsorb.com/category/energy
Carbon-negative fuel set: burning the world to a better place
Carbon-negative fuel set: burning the world to a better place
#Energy is generated from temperature fluctuations.
You do not have to wait until the wind is blowing or the sun is shining. This alternative energy is generated from temperature fluctuations. Energy has been able to generate energy from temperature differences for years. They use the thermoelectric effect, which occurs due to a temperature difference at the transition between two layers of material. When the heat from the hot side travels to the cold side of the material, there is a voltage difference and electric current is generated. The thermal resonator (Picture: MIT) For this effect, however, the difference in temperature between the layers must be considerable. MIT has now come up with a new technique that uses modest, daily temperature fluctuations to generate energy. Their design - the thermal resonator - can always be used through the use of these fluctuations. Waiting until it is blowing or the sun is shining to generate energy is no longer necessary with this technique. Foam and wax Conductive foam In the resonator, the pyroelectric effect is used to obtain energy. This effect takes place in certain materials that are naturally electrically polarized. Heating of the material results in a different arrangement of the atoms, as a result of which the polarization changes. This change in polarization creates electrical tension. In contrast to the older technique, small temperature changes can already provide tension here. The active component in the design is coated foam, made of copper or nickel. The foam is soaked with a special wax, consisting of octadecane. This substance is liquid or solid at different temperatures. This material mix is ​​coated with the thermal conductor graphene. Graphene (Credit: Leiden University) The combination of these three materials ensures perfect thermal effusiveness: it can absorb and release heat very quickly. According to the scientists, this is the best 'thermal effusivity material' to date. Balance In the material of the resonator, heat therefore runs quickly from one side to the other. One side is always slightly cooler than the other, so the heat keeps going back and forth 'in the hope' of achieving a balance. Energy can be stored from this 'movement'. The material has been tested for sixteen days. The scientists managed to generate 350 millivolt potential energy and 1.3 milliwatts of power. This is more than what a natural pyroelectric material of the same size can produce. Modest The generated energy with this technique remains modest, but according to the researchers, it is very promising. The small temperature fluctuations that are required to generate energy with this resonator take place everywhere and every day. Wind and solar energy is difficult to generate when it is not blowing or the sun is not shining. Possibly the new technology will be used in the future to 'recycle' energy. The heat that is released by a refrigerator motor, for example, is constantly changing. The engine namely starts to cool the contents and goes off again when the refrigerator is at temperature. These small fluctuations can be used with the resonator of the MIT to generate energy. 'Recycle' energy. The heat that could be released by a refrigerator motor Sources: Nature Communications, MIT News, New Atlas Picture: MIT {youtube}
You do not have to wait until the wind is blowing or the sun is shining. This alternative energy is generated from temperature fluctuations. Energy has been able to generate energy from temperature differences for years. They use the thermoelectric effect, which occurs due to a temperature difference at the transition between two layers of material. When the heat from the hot side travels to the cold side of the material, there is a voltage difference and electric current is generated. The thermal resonator (Picture: MIT) For this effect, however, the difference in temperature between the layers must be considerable. MIT has now come up with a new technique that uses modest, daily temperature fluctuations to generate energy. Their design - the thermal resonator - can always be used through the use of these fluctuations. Waiting until it is blowing or the sun is shining to generate energy is no longer necessary with this technique. Foam and wax Conductive foam In the resonator, the pyroelectric effect is used to obtain energy. This effect takes place in certain materials that are naturally electrically polarized. Heating of the material results in a different arrangement of the atoms, as a result of which the polarization changes. This change in polarization creates electrical tension. In contrast to the older technique, small temperature changes can already provide tension here. The active component in the design is coated foam, made of copper or nickel. The foam is soaked with a special wax, consisting of octadecane. This substance is liquid or solid at different temperatures. This material mix is ​​coated with the thermal conductor graphene. Graphene (Credit: Leiden University) The combination of these three materials ensures perfect thermal effusiveness: it can absorb and release heat very quickly. According to the scientists, this is the best 'thermal effusivity material' to date. Balance In the material of the resonator, heat therefore runs quickly from one side to the other. One side is always slightly cooler than the other, so the heat keeps going back and forth 'in the hope' of achieving a balance. Energy can be stored from this 'movement'. The material has been tested for sixteen days. The scientists managed to generate 350 millivolt potential energy and 1.3 milliwatts of power. This is more than what a natural pyroelectric material of the same size can produce. Modest The generated energy with this technique remains modest, but according to the researchers, it is very promising. The small temperature fluctuations that are required to generate energy with this resonator take place everywhere and every day. Wind and solar energy is difficult to generate when it is not blowing or the sun is not shining. Possibly the new technology will be used in the future to 'recycle' energy. The heat that is released by a refrigerator motor, for example, is constantly changing. The engine namely starts to cool the contents and goes off again when the refrigerator is at temperature. These small fluctuations can be used with the resonator of the MIT to generate energy. 'Recycle' energy. The heat that could be released by a refrigerator motor Sources: Nature Communications, MIT News, New Atlas Picture: MIT {youtube}
#Energy is generated from temperature fluctuations.
100% Renewable electricity worldwide is feasible, and cheaper than business-as-usual.
Currently, the global electricity sector amount to 11 Gt of CO2 equivalent. According to a new study from German non-profit Energy Watch Group and the Lappeenranta University of Technology in Finland, that could be brought down to zero by 2050 and perhaps even sooner through a transition to 100% renewable electricity, combined with significant energy storage. The study, entitled. Global Energy System Based on 100% Renewable Energy Power Sector, was released at the COP23 UN climate summit in Bonn, and makes the claim that not only is this transition feasible but would actually end up costing less than business-as-usual too. According to the study's modeling, the total levelized cost of energy would come down to 52 euros per MWh by 2050, compared to 70 euros today. And the transition would create 36 million jobs in the process too. Here's what the energy mix would look like: Of course, I'm sure there will be plenty of naysayers who argue that this just isn't feasible. And there will be others who say that 2050 just isn't fast enough. To the former, there's not much I can say. To the latter, it's worth noting that the study models a more than 80% drop in emissions between 2020 and 2030, with the period between 2030 and 2050 being used to more gradually wean the system down to zero. (Remember, too, most cars will be electric by then-or gone.): Critically, while the reports authors' emphasize that all types of renewable energy and all types of energy storage, efficiency and demand management technologies will be needed, they envision an increasing amount of the heavy lifting to be done by solar plus battery storage as costs drop. (Wind will briefly out compete solar in the 2020s, but will eventually be eclipsed.) This isn't, of course, the first time we've heard claims that;100% renewable energy is possible. But it's yet another data set suggesting a path forward. In fact, with favorable policy support like; phasing out fossil fuel subsidies (yes!), promoting research and investment into renewables, and moving from emissions trading to a tax on carbon, the reports' authors claim that the transition could be complete even earlier than 2050.
Currently, the global electricity sector amount to 11 Gt of CO2 equivalent. According to a new study from German non-profit Energy Watch Group and the Lappeenranta University of Technology in Finland, that could be brought down to zero by 2050 and perhaps even sooner through a transition to 100% renewable electricity, combined with significant energy storage. The study, entitled. Global Energy System Based on 100% Renewable Energy Power Sector, was released at the COP23 UN climate summit in Bonn, and makes the claim that not only is this transition feasible but would actually end up costing less than business-as-usual too. According to the study's modeling, the total levelized cost of energy would come down to 52 euros per MWh by 2050, compared to 70 euros today. And the transition would create 36 million jobs in the process too. Here's what the energy mix would look like: Of course, I'm sure there will be plenty of naysayers who argue that this just isn't feasible. And there will be others who say that 2050 just isn't fast enough. To the former, there's not much I can say. To the latter, it's worth noting that the study models a more than 80% drop in emissions between 2020 and 2030, with the period between 2030 and 2050 being used to more gradually wean the system down to zero. (Remember, too, most cars will be electric by then-or gone.): Critically, while the reports authors' emphasize that all types of renewable energy and all types of energy storage, efficiency and demand management technologies will be needed, they envision an increasing amount of the heavy lifting to be done by solar plus battery storage as costs drop. (Wind will briefly out compete solar in the 2020s, but will eventually be eclipsed.) This isn't, of course, the first time we've heard claims that;100% renewable energy is possible. But it's yet another data set suggesting a path forward. In fact, with favorable policy support like; phasing out fossil fuel subsidies (yes!), promoting research and investment into renewables, and moving from emissions trading to a tax on carbon, the reports' authors claim that the transition could be complete even earlier than 2050.
100% Renewable electricity worldwide is feasible, and cheaper than business-as-usual.
100% Renewable electricity worldwide is feasible, and cheaper than business-as-usual.
How banana skins turned on the lights in Lagos ... and then turned them off again
Two kids run across the road shouting, “Thief! Thief!” as a big rat races away into a nearby hole for refuge. It has rained and the drains are clogged with waste: the water pools on the road and fills the potholes along the thoroughfare leading to Lagos’s famous Ikosi fruit market. One of the largest of its kind in the city, the market is a popular spot for trading vegetables and fruit like pineapples, bananas and plantains. But here, like most parts of Nigeria, there is rarely a steady power supply – according to the World Bank, 75 million people in a country of 186 million don’t have access to electricity. “The light issue is a big one here. When there is no light, we have no choice but to close early, especially when we are witnessing shorter days and longer nights,” says market trader Ajose Abosede. Ikosi fruit market biogas facility, which is no longer operating. Photograph: Glintz/Temitope Jaleku A few metres away is a large abandoned biogas plant, tucked away in a corner of the market that overlooks a field littered with fruit waste. This was supposed to be the answer for Abosede and the other stallholders. Lagos, the biggest megacity in Africa, generates more than 13,000 tonnes of garbage a day, of which 50% is organic waste, says Lanre Gbajulaye of the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (Lawma). A huge amount of that waste comes from more than 30 markets – and therein lies surprising potential. Experts believe Lagos can be energy self-sufficient if it can tap into the latent power of its organic garbage. But it’s taking a little longer than they hoped. In 2013, the state government partnered with Midori Environmental Solutions (MES), a Lagos-based environmental company, to explore the possibilities of converting waste from the market into electricity using a biogas system. Food leftovers would be ground into paste and then broken down by bacteria in a biodigester, releasing biogas in the process. Once filtered, the gas would fuel a generator and produce enough electricity for up to 50 stalls and lock-up shops. The market produces 5,000 tonnes of waste a day – and the traders were more than happy to give this to the generator instead of paying to have it taken away. Banana seller Saliu Adenekan thought at first that the plan was a joke. “As old as I am, I have not seen or heard of how waste is used to generate light. I know that there must have been a way that people abroad treat and use their waste, but I have no idea we can do [the] same here in Nigeria, to say nothing of it working in Ikosi,” he says. For a while it looked as if it was all going ahead. MES was given a licence to build a “low-technology” facility, for what would be a flagship project – a symbol of the state’s innovative drive to solve its energy crisis, applauded by local and international observers. Not long after it was built, the biogas plant was up and running. At last, there was light. Nigeria’s energy system is a conundrum that no one seems able to solve. Despite having the largest gas and oil reserves in Africa, the country struggles to supply its power plants with adequate gas to generate electricity, and regularly appears to run out of petrol. On 31 March 2016, at exactly 12.58pm, Nigeria’s power grid collapsed and not a single megawatt of electricity was generated for three hours. This was unprecedented. The country’s three-pronged energy infrastructure consists of generation companies, distribution companies (DisCos) and the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), now operated by a mixture of the state and private companies after a privatisation drive in 2014, which some believe was bungled. The problems have been exacerbated by alleged financial mismanagement of some of the distribution companies – to say nothing of the frequent vandalism of gas pipelines in the country’s oil-rich Niger Delta by local militants fighting for resource control. A 2006 image of Shell’s pipelines in the Utorogun, one of the areas which has seen trouble over the years. Photograph: George Osodi/AP According to Aliyu Wabba, president of the Nigeria Labour Congress, the deplorable state of the power sector has stifled Nigeria’s economy. Industries have not been thriving, which in turn inhibits employment opportunities for young Nigerians. “The economy continues to grow without jobs, bringing benefits to only a few. We demand an economy that provides jobs and other benefits,” Wabba told a Nigerian newspaper. In 2014, landmark reforms allowed private sector participation in the energy sector, particularly in power generation and distribution, but many believe the process has been deeply flawed, due to factors like corruption or poor leadership, and there have been calls for a full audit of the whole process. The government failed to check that investors who bought distribution companies were appropriately capitalised, or that they understood the technology of the enterprises they would own, says economist and former finance minister Kalu Idika Kalu. Yemi Oke, associate professor of energy and electricity law at the University of Lagos, believes the problems are largely man-made. “Some of the distribution companies are owned by corrupt and wealthy people who thought there is free money to be made in the power sector. They borrowed money and bought the distribution companies only to say that they won’t incur the liabilities of the company,” Oke says at his office in Lagos. According to Oke, the nation’s recent economic meltdown reveals that the private investors were neither as technically or as financially sound as they should have been before taking over as distribution companies. And when the price of oil tanked – and with it the value of the naira, Nigeria’s currency – the problems only multiplied. However, the government says the country will not review the 2014 privatisationof the power sector even as many Nigerians continue to feel the brunt of poor electricity supply. Increasingly, those who can afford it buy their own generators (sales rose from N29.48bn – £60m – in the second half of 2015 to N66.99bn – £138m – in the same period in 2016).   At another Lagos market, vegetable vendors ply their wares by the light of locally made lanterns. Photograph: Sunday Alamba/AP As a short-term measure, the Nigerian government has decided to develop an incremental power strategy that would aim to sort out the human and administrative challenges bedevilling the power sector, while also harnessing every available megawatt of power. This is where ideas like generating energy from garbage come in. The government seems to be finally recognising the immense renewable potential in Nigeria. One report found that Nigeria’s concentrated solar thermal power potential stood at over 427,000MW – about 85 times more than the present level of power generation in the country. And the new emphasis on renewable energy has already started yielding results. In 2016, US$2.5bn (£1.85bn) was committed to 14 renewable energy projects by private investors, with the intention of adding a combined 1,000 megawatts to the national grid. So is the huge amount of waste in Lagos state the key to generating some of this electricity? Banana trader Adenekan’s excitement vanished a few months after work had begun on the Ikosi market biogas generator, when the government asked the contractor to hand it over. Lawma took over the initiative with the idea that it would be replicated in other markets across the state. That turned out not to be the case. A change in leadership at the waste management body saw the project shut down and abandoned. Three years on, the facility has ceased to operate and Ikosi fruit market has gone back to how it used to be: a community of traders, waste and pests competing for space in darkness. But they have not given up. “Waste is money,” says Ajani Ojo. Nicknamed the “waste converter” by his colleagues, Ojo is a plantain trader who now makes his cash from setting up low-tech biogas facilities for people. He says he learned all he knows about converting waste to value from MES, the contractor who handled the Ikosi project. Ojo wants the government to resuscitate the project. “When the facility was working, waste scattered all over the market was reduced, especially around the banana section,” he says, pointing to a field near the facility. “Apart from that, we didn’t have to pay the waste collector money to take our waste. We gave it up for free to the facility to generate electricity for our use.” Unfortunately, although some steps are being taken to deal with the waste, there are no signs of plans to reopen the plant. For Ojo, as for many, it is clear that the government should pursue this path more wholeheartedly. He believes that there is a need for better appreciation and commitment to solving two problems using a simple technology. With the realisation of the huge opportunities that renewable energy presents, Nigeria should apply itself to harnessing these opportunities as part of a mosaic solution to its energy crises. Even Ojo, who has seen the problems of converting waste to biogas, is convinced this is the right path for the country. “My eyes have been opened,” he says. “And the government’s eyes should be wider.” This content was produced with the support of the Access to Energy Journalism Fellowship and Discourse Media
Two kids run across the road shouting, “Thief! Thief!” as a big rat races away into a nearby hole for refuge. It has rained and the drains are clogged with waste: the water pools on the road and fills the potholes along the thoroughfare leading to Lagos’s famous Ikosi fruit market. One of the largest of its kind in the city, the market is a popular spot for trading vegetables and fruit like pineapples, bananas and plantains. But here, like most parts of Nigeria, there is rarely a steady power supply – according to the World Bank, 75 million people in a country of 186 million don’t have access to electricity. “The light issue is a big one here. When there is no light, we have no choice but to close early, especially when we are witnessing shorter days and longer nights,” says market trader Ajose Abosede. Ikosi fruit market biogas facility, which is no longer operating. Photograph: Glintz/Temitope Jaleku A few metres away is a large abandoned biogas plant, tucked away in a corner of the market that overlooks a field littered with fruit waste. This was supposed to be the answer for Abosede and the other stallholders. Lagos, the biggest megacity in Africa, generates more than 13,000 tonnes of garbage a day, of which 50% is organic waste, says Lanre Gbajulaye of the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (Lawma). A huge amount of that waste comes from more than 30 markets – and therein lies surprising potential. Experts believe Lagos can be energy self-sufficient if it can tap into the latent power of its organic garbage. But it’s taking a little longer than they hoped. In 2013, the state government partnered with Midori Environmental Solutions (MES), a Lagos-based environmental company, to explore the possibilities of converting waste from the market into electricity using a biogas system. Food leftovers would be ground into paste and then broken down by bacteria in a biodigester, releasing biogas in the process. Once filtered, the gas would fuel a generator and produce enough electricity for up to 50 stalls and lock-up shops. The market produces 5,000 tonnes of waste a day – and the traders were more than happy to give this to the generator instead of paying to have it taken away. Banana seller Saliu Adenekan thought at first that the plan was a joke. “As old as I am, I have not seen or heard of how waste is used to generate light. I know that there must have been a way that people abroad treat and use their waste, but I have no idea we can do [the] same here in Nigeria, to say nothing of it working in Ikosi,” he says. For a while it looked as if it was all going ahead. MES was given a licence to build a “low-technology” facility, for what would be a flagship project – a symbol of the state’s innovative drive to solve its energy crisis, applauded by local and international observers. Not long after it was built, the biogas plant was up and running. At last, there was light. Nigeria’s energy system is a conundrum that no one seems able to solve. Despite having the largest gas and oil reserves in Africa, the country struggles to supply its power plants with adequate gas to generate electricity, and regularly appears to run out of petrol. On 31 March 2016, at exactly 12.58pm, Nigeria’s power grid collapsed and not a single megawatt of electricity was generated for three hours. This was unprecedented. The country’s three-pronged energy infrastructure consists of generation companies, distribution companies (DisCos) and the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), now operated by a mixture of the state and private companies after a privatisation drive in 2014, which some believe was bungled. The problems have been exacerbated by alleged financial mismanagement of some of the distribution companies – to say nothing of the frequent vandalism of gas pipelines in the country’s oil-rich Niger Delta by local militants fighting for resource control. A 2006 image of Shell’s pipelines in the Utorogun, one of the areas which has seen trouble over the years. Photograph: George Osodi/AP According to Aliyu Wabba, president of the Nigeria Labour Congress, the deplorable state of the power sector has stifled Nigeria’s economy. Industries have not been thriving, which in turn inhibits employment opportunities for young Nigerians. “The economy continues to grow without jobs, bringing benefits to only a few. We demand an economy that provides jobs and other benefits,” Wabba told a Nigerian newspaper. In 2014, landmark reforms allowed private sector participation in the energy sector, particularly in power generation and distribution, but many believe the process has been deeply flawed, due to factors like corruption or poor leadership, and there have been calls for a full audit of the whole process. The government failed to check that investors who bought distribution companies were appropriately capitalised, or that they understood the technology of the enterprises they would own, says economist and former finance minister Kalu Idika Kalu. Yemi Oke, associate professor of energy and electricity law at the University of Lagos, believes the problems are largely man-made. “Some of the distribution companies are owned by corrupt and wealthy people who thought there is free money to be made in the power sector. They borrowed money and bought the distribution companies only to say that they won’t incur the liabilities of the company,” Oke says at his office in Lagos. According to Oke, the nation’s recent economic meltdown reveals that the private investors were neither as technically or as financially sound as they should have been before taking over as distribution companies. And when the price of oil tanked – and with it the value of the naira, Nigeria’s currency – the problems only multiplied. However, the government says the country will not review the 2014 privatisationof the power sector even as many Nigerians continue to feel the brunt of poor electricity supply. Increasingly, those who can afford it buy their own generators (sales rose from N29.48bn – £60m – in the second half of 2015 to N66.99bn – £138m – in the same period in 2016).   At another Lagos market, vegetable vendors ply their wares by the light of locally made lanterns. Photograph: Sunday Alamba/AP As a short-term measure, the Nigerian government has decided to develop an incremental power strategy that would aim to sort out the human and administrative challenges bedevilling the power sector, while also harnessing every available megawatt of power. This is where ideas like generating energy from garbage come in. The government seems to be finally recognising the immense renewable potential in Nigeria. One report found that Nigeria’s concentrated solar thermal power potential stood at over 427,000MW – about 85 times more than the present level of power generation in the country. And the new emphasis on renewable energy has already started yielding results. In 2016, US$2.5bn (£1.85bn) was committed to 14 renewable energy projects by private investors, with the intention of adding a combined 1,000 megawatts to the national grid. So is the huge amount of waste in Lagos state the key to generating some of this electricity? Banana trader Adenekan’s excitement vanished a few months after work had begun on the Ikosi market biogas generator, when the government asked the contractor to hand it over. Lawma took over the initiative with the idea that it would be replicated in other markets across the state. That turned out not to be the case. A change in leadership at the waste management body saw the project shut down and abandoned. Three years on, the facility has ceased to operate and Ikosi fruit market has gone back to how it used to be: a community of traders, waste and pests competing for space in darkness. But they have not given up. “Waste is money,” says Ajani Ojo. Nicknamed the “waste converter” by his colleagues, Ojo is a plantain trader who now makes his cash from setting up low-tech biogas facilities for people. He says he learned all he knows about converting waste to value from MES, the contractor who handled the Ikosi project. Ojo wants the government to resuscitate the project. “When the facility was working, waste scattered all over the market was reduced, especially around the banana section,” he says, pointing to a field near the facility. “Apart from that, we didn’t have to pay the waste collector money to take our waste. We gave it up for free to the facility to generate electricity for our use.” Unfortunately, although some steps are being taken to deal with the waste, there are no signs of plans to reopen the plant. For Ojo, as for many, it is clear that the government should pursue this path more wholeheartedly. He believes that there is a need for better appreciation and commitment to solving two problems using a simple technology. With the realisation of the huge opportunities that renewable energy presents, Nigeria should apply itself to harnessing these opportunities as part of a mosaic solution to its energy crises. Even Ojo, who has seen the problems of converting waste to biogas, is convinced this is the right path for the country. “My eyes have been opened,” he says. “And the government’s eyes should be wider.” This content was produced with the support of the Access to Energy Journalism Fellowship and Discourse Media
How banana skins turned on the lights in Lagos ... and then turned them off again
How banana skins turned on the lights in Lagos ... and then turned them off again
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