Govt to Turn to Toilets for Energy

As a way of closing the energy gap in the country, government has turned its focus on latrines as a main source of cooking energy.

James Banaabe, the commissioner for Energy Resources in the ministry of Energy and mineral Development, attributed the deficit on wood fuel to prolonged deforestation.

He said although wood energy, mainly charcoal production, accounts for an estimated 220,000 jobs, the country is running out of wood as a source of energy, underscoring the need to invest in other sources of clean and renewable energy to power the economy. Banaabe was speaking at the launch of the Biomass Energy Strategy at Protea hotel in Kampala this week.

“If we don’t act now, the future is bleak,” Banaabe said.

Godfrey Ndawula, the assistant commissioner for Renewable Energy Sources, said the strategy would focus on turning animal and human waste into renewable energy sources.

“Currently, the country uses 42 million tonnes of wood annually. If we don’t intervene now, soon we shall run out of woody bio-mass that is why the strategy will place emphasis on non-woody biomass energy,” he said.

Onesmus Muhwezi, the team leader in-charge of Energy and Environment at UNDP, said Uganda is already in a wood-energy deficit. Although he didn’t state the deficit in figures, he noted that the country loses at least 90,000 hectares of forest cover annually. The tea industry currently consumes 71,000 tonnes of wood annually while the tobacco sub-sector consumes 270,000 tonnes of wood.

Bio-gas:

Banaabe said under the biomass energy strategy, government intends to cut on the consumption of wood energy and encourage key institutions like schools, prisons, hospitals and other institutions that use a lot of wood energy to turn to biogas from animal and human waste.

He said the ministry was piloting the bio-latrine technology in more than 20 schools in the country to help them [schools] switch from using firewood to biogas.

“We want these schools with bio-toilets to convert waste from pupils into biogas so that instead of using firewood, they can use biogas for cooking,” he said.

Schools should be able to use human waste, cow dung and other decomposing materials to generate biogas for cooking. For instance, at Kansanga primary school in Kampala, one of the schools under the pilot, bio-latrine has already started generating biogas from the latrines that the school uses to cook food and porridge. As a result, the school has been able to cut down its expenditure to Shs 1.3m per month, from Shs 2.8m.

The pilot bio-latrine technology is supported by German International Cooperation (GIZ). According to Banaabe, the bio-latrine doesn’t smell and therefore doesn’t attract flies like other pit latrines.

The bio-latrine, at a glance, looks like a ventilated improved latrine but operates like a modern flushing toilet. It requires little water to push the waste into a 30-cubic-metre digester, where decomposition takes place.

The digester, made out of concrete, acts as the pit, but also produces gas that is dispatched trough a plastic tube, where it’s connected to a biogas stove for cooking.

Ethanol to petrol:

Another technology, Banaabe explained, is turning molasses from sugar into ethanol, which can be blended into petrol to be used in engines and vehicles. He explained that his ministry is drafting the Bio-Fuels Bill that is expected to operationalise the Energy Policy 2007, which looks at improving efficiency in bio-fuels.

He said this would reduce on the importation of petroleum products. Countries that have introduced fuel ethanol-blending policies include Brazil, Peru, and Columbia, among others.

Source : The Observer

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