Waste to energy: ‘African countries have opportunity to leapfrog West’

THE evolution that has taken place in the Western world over the years in the Waste to Energy industry provides a great opportunity as we saw in telecoms for Africa to leapfrog the infrastructure, research and development cost. This is a great opportunity for all African countries indeed any country that is producing waste.

This was the view expressed by Stephan Groves, Director of Rethink Events, the organisers of World Waste Energy and Resources Summit, which held May 21 to 22 in London, United Kingdom.

He said, “Historically, a huge amount of the Waste to Energy industry has been about burning the waste, but the sector has advanced a lot over the last decade. Now there are interesting thing to do with the waste like converting to jet fuel.”

According to him, “Regulatory environment and dependence on subsidies are possible factors that have hindered African investment in the waste to energy sector till date. Cost of the projects is coming down and when the industry reaches a level when subsidies are no longer needed the market will become more attractive.”

He noted that some advanced technologies being employed in the industry for projects are still at an early stage, thereby hindering readiness to be deployed. They are still expensive and maybe there is technology risk, so they may be not quite ready. But these also depend on regulatory environments in Latin America, Asia and Africa.

Asked when the industry would gain traction in developing countries especially Africa, he said despite the industry’s challenges over the last decade, in this year’s summit the industry has seen some upsides. He was of the opinion that it would happen soon. “We have seen some big hockey-curve growth over the last two years, and real change of mood and a lot larger international representation; we saw 16 countries represented last year, we have got 30 countries represented this year.”

A first-of-its-kind waste to energy plant exists in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.