Support for waste-to-energy pilot projects

What counts as waste-to-energy (WTE) power generation?

WTE power generation plants are a proven and relatively inexpensive way to generate power, taking waste otherwise destined for landfill and using it as feedstock. Many WTE plants use municipal solid waste (MSW) – often referred to as rubbish, garbage, or trash – as feedstock. MSW typically comprises organic waste, paper, plastics, and wood. Although few WTE plants have been developed in Africa, EU Institutions and Member States are at the forefront of supporting pilot projects and feasibility studies across the continent.

Other WTE plants use organic waste feed¬stock. Such plants are increasingly common worldwide, although they remain rare in Africa, where the commercial use of thermolysis or pyrolysis to convert organic waste into biofuels, syngas or pure hydrogen is still nascent.

Biomass and biogas-fuelled plants have long been commissioned across Africa and typically use by-products from agro-industrial processes to generate on-site power for C&I customers off-takers. These are frequently combined heat and power (CHP) developments which also provide heat for industrial processes or refrigeration. Such plants are generally not considered WTE as their feedstock is not otherwise destined for landfill. However, some contend that their feedstock, which would otherwise be dis¬carded, should be considered waste. Typical feedstocks for C&I biomass and biogas plants include palm oil kernels, bagasse (sugar cane waste), non-commercial wood from forestry plantations, rubber tree residues and seeds, cashew shells and apples, cocoa pods and shells, and wastewater from brewing.

Other biomass power plants in Africa use feedstock cultivated specifically for power generation. Although not WTE projects, they demonstrate the commercial viability of tech¬nology that can also be used in WTE develop¬ments. Examples include bioethanol producer Sunbird Bioenergy’s Makeni project in Sierra Leone, which sources feedstock from 10,000 ha of sugar cane and features a 30 MW power plant, and the continent’s first utility-scale pyrolysis plant at the Ford Silverton Assembly plant near Pretoria in South Africa (due to be commissioned by year-end 2022), which will outsource the farming of fermentable, quick-growing plants, such as cacti, locally to provide feedstock.

WTE projects in Africa have benefitted from Team Europe funding

Few WTE pilot projects exist in Africa, but those which are under development, or have been commissioned, have been well-support¬ed by EU Institutions and Member States.

In Ghana, a 400 kW hybrid WTE plant in Kumasi is expected to go online in 2023. Funding of EUR 6.2 million was committed by Germany’s Ministry of Education and Research in 2019 for the German-Ghanaian Waste2Energy partnership which is developing the project. The plant will generate 200 kW of capacity from solar PV, 100 kW from biogas, and 100 kW from plastic waste; MSW feedstock will be used for the biogas and plastic units.

The Energy and Environment Partnership Trust Fund (EEP Africa) is a clean energy financing facility hosted and managed by the Nordic Development Fund (NDF). EEP Africa is funded by the NDF (members are the governments of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) along with the govern¬ments of Austria, Finland, and Switzerland.

EEP Africa is providing funding for six WTE power plant projects: EUR 500,000 for a feasibility study for a 0.3 MW CHP plant in rural Uganda that will use agricultural and fish waste as feedstock.

• EUR 200,000 for a 0.31MW WTE pilot plant development at a vegetable market in Malawi that will use organic waste feedstock.

• EUR 500,000 for a biogas digester and mini-grid pilot development at a farm produce aggregator and processor site in Uganda which will use organic waste feedstock.

• EUR 240,000 for a feasibility study of two off-grid wastewater-to-energy plants (using anaerobic digestion, membrane bioreactor and reverse osmosis) with a combined 3.3 MW capacity in South Africa.

• EUR 500,000 provided in 2021 for a 7 MW WTE plant and solid fuel briquette project pilot in Kenya that will use faecal sludge as feedstock.

• EUR 200,000 for a feasibility study for a 2.7 MW MSW power plant in Cape Town, South Africa.

EEP Africa also provided finance for WTE projects in previous funding rounds:

• EUR 225,000 in 2016 for the Kitwe municipal landfill WTE pilot scheme in Zambia. This included gas wells and lines, landfill surface shaping and covering solutions, as well as a combined gas pumping station with combined heat and power equipment.

• EUR 125,000 for a feasibility study for a biowaste briquettes project in Burundi in 2015.

In Burkina Faso, the Netherlands’ development bank FMO and Enterprise Agency (RVO) provided concessional funding for the FasoBiogaz biogas plant in Ouagadougou. First commissioned in 2015 with 275 kW of capacity and an output of 3,640 MWh per year, the capacity is due to be increased to 1.4 MW. FMO approved a further EUR 200,000 repayable grant in 2020. The FasoBiogaz plant uses two bio-digesters which receive organic waste feedstock from the Société de Gestion de l’Abattoir de Ouagadougou’s slaughterhouse, brewer Brasseries du Burkina, farmers, and waste collectors.

In Ghana, the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in partnership with the AfDB, provided finance for the development of the 100 kW capacity Ashaiman WTE plant, commissioned in 2014. It uses waste from the Ashaiman marketplace and Accra abattoir to fuel a CHP plant and to produce fertiliser. The plant can treat 45 t/d of faecal and organic waste and generates approximately 580 MWh per year.

Commercial WTE projects

Large-scale WTE projects in African markets remain emergent, but a handful have been developed with support from C&I firms as customers (offtakers)off-takers, or as feedstock suppliers. As may be expected, these plants are concentrated in Egypt and South Africa, two of the continent’s wealthiest and most industrialised economies.

South African firm Bio2Watt developed the country’s first commercially viable WTE plant, the 4.6 MW Bronkhorstspruit Biogas project in Tshwana, Gauteng, in 2014. Bronkhorstspruit was developed on the basis of a ten-year PPA with off-taker BMW South Africa for the motor manufacturer’s Rosslyn production facility near Pretoria. 120,000 t per year of waste is sourced from Beefcor’s giant Bayview feedlot. The Bronkhorstspruit plant supplies some 25% of Rosslyn’s power requirements and despatched its first power to the grid in October 2015.

• In 2011, EUR 54,000 of financing for Bronkhorstspruit’s feasibility study was provided by EEP Africa.

In March 2022, Bio2Watt signed another PPA with Ab InBev subsidiary South African Breweries for its 4.8MW Cape Dairy biogas plant. The facility under-construction is sit¬uated on one of South Africa’s biggest dairy farms, the Vyvlei Dairy farm in Malmesbury, western Cape. The Cape Dairy plant will use slurry manure produced by Vyvlei’s 7,000 dairy cattle, in combination with other waste products, as its feedstock.

In February 2022, Dublin-registered Kibo Energy signed a ten-year take-or-pay condition¬al power purchase agreement (PPA) with an unnamed industrial business park developer in Gauteng for a 2.7 MW plastic-to-syngas plant.

In September 2021, Bahrain-based Oak Group Holdings and its development part¬ners began construction of the 40 MW Abu Rawash power plant using biogas derived from household waste on the outskirts of Cairo. The development will process 1,000 t/d of municipal solid waste, which will be burnt in a high-temperature pyrolysis process to produce biogas. Commissioning is expected in Q3 23, and agreements for two further WTE plants have been signed with local authorities.