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SA’s untapped potential for off-grid biogas energy

by Madelein
SA’s untapped potential for off-grid biogas energy

With constant loadshedding and the threat of water shortages, the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI) has uncovered a potential to aid climate mitigation and a green circular economy. 

South African Waste to Energy Roadmap

A new report has been released ahead of the launch of the South African Waste to Energy Roadmap in 2022. The micro-digester sector has significant opportunities to grow if it can strengthen partnerships within the sector and with stakeholders in allied sectors.

This study, commissioned by SANEDI, has uncovered the untapped potential for a micro-digester sector to aid in both climate mitigation and the green circular economy.  

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) Process, Energy, Environmental and Technology Station responded to SANEDI to raise anaerobic micro-biogas awareness, grow a mindset/culture and conduct workshops and training to boost this sector. “Biogas technologies possess the potential for scaling and promoting a green circular economy. It is the only fully closed circular renewable energy system that produces near-zero waste,” said Dr Karen Surridge, renewable energy manager at SANEDI.

Benefits of managing waste

Organic waste is collected and digested; and creates methane gas for fuel and beneficial by-products such as soil fertiliser. The technology has multiple benefits for managing waste decomposition, reducing the volume of organic waste sent to landfills and reducing methane emissions.

In rural areas the primary source of waste is cow dung and food waste.

Micro-digesters for biogas production are concentrated in public sector programmes in rural areas, where the primary source of waste is cow dung and food waste to provide clean cooking gas, but there is little uptake in urban areas, where the technology is a sustainable solution for some municipal waste.

Proper waste management

The Sector Development Plan (SDP) recommends that micro-biogas production should be moved beyond energy and cooking to encompass the benefits from other value additions available from using a micro-digester, especially waste management and fertiliser from digestate. Micro-digesters are valuable through community-based instalment (or pay-as-you-go) schemes that secure gas for generators, battery charging, lights and clean cooking.  

UJ’s Trilateral Research Chair in Transformative Innovation, Fourth Industrial Revolution and Sustainable Development (UJ-TRCTI) conducted a study and noted challenges such as access to cow dung for people in rural areas, a lack of maintenance and available technical skills, and access to water. 

The development of the SDP for micro-biogas forms part of the SANEDI Strategic Plan 2020-2025, focussing on enhancing energy access with an emphasis on clean renewable energies, transforming waste to energy, and upskilling women and youth to assist in the commercialisation and embracing of renewable energy technologies.

For more information, contact SANEDI:
Tel: +27 011 038 4302
Email: information@sanedi.org.za or FunananiN@sanedi.org.za
Website: www.sanedi.org.za

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