South Africa’s biogas market potential worth R10-bn, SABIA says

South Africa’s biogas market potential worth R10-bn, SABIA says

(Source: SABIA, edited by Issa Sikiti da Silva). Biogas in South Africa has a market potential of over R10-billion (about 1.1 billion USD) and can create 2.5 GW of electricity and thousands of jobs opportunities, the South African Biogas Industry Association (SABIA) said recently ahead of the Africa Energy Indaba due to kick off in Johannesburg, South Africa, in mid-February.

“Biogas should no longer be lumped together with other alternative energy sources and overshadowed by other forms of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and hydro, but should be allowed to stand in its own category,” SABIA chairman Mark Tiepelt said.

Tiepelt said previously the only incentive available for investing in biogas energy in SA was that you could get preferential interest rates from the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). However, he said the recent introduction by Eskom and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) of a rebate scheme and a grant incentive, respectively, has substantially improved the financial viability of biogas projects in SA.

Tiepelt, a civil engineer by profession, believes that the time has come for biogas to takes its rightful place in the SA’s renewable energy sector and ‘play catch-up’ to other countries such as India that has more than 12 million rural biogas plants.

SA has been lagging behind the rest of the developed and developing world when it comes to using biogas for energy, Raoul Goosen, of the IDC Green Industries business unit said. “In SA, there are approximately 200 small scale biogas digesters mostly installed by NGO’s. Germany for example has built 7000 biogas plants over the past 15 years and currently builds a new biogas plant every eight hours,” Goosen charged, adding that SA is where Germany was 15 years ago and is likely to see increasing investment in many biogas plants.

The IDC Green Industries business unit recently funded some of the first SA’s biogas plants. Goosen said his organisation was committed to assisting further development of South Africa’s nascent biogas industry, leading to cleaner and more efficient businesses that currently generate waste.

Tiepelt believes a biogas plant not only turns organic waste into electricity, but also has the added benefit of producing thermal energy. This is done, he said, through the capture of excess heat from the generator (CHP), which turns the often environmentally hazardous waste into usable organic compost, and has the potential to change the carbon status of the operation to being carbon neutral.

The methane can also be used as vehicular fuel to run cars, taxis and busses, and on a domestic level biogas is used worldwide for cooking purposes and lighting, and water heating, he said.

SABIA believes that producing energy from biogas makes sense for big scale commercial operations like agricultural concerns, dairies, piggeries, fruit and vegetable farmers, manufacturers, food processing plants, wine estates and breweries, among others. SABIA is due to be launched at the Africa Energy Indaba to be held on 19-21 February 2013, at the Sandton Convention Centre.

The Africa Energy Indaba conference-expo is adopted by the World Energy Council (WEC) and presented by the South African National Energy Association (SANEA) in association with the World Energy Council, and also supported by the African Union and NEPAD.

*Photo by Picture alliance/dpa. A biogas plant in Germany.

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