Sugar could power Mozambique

Mozambique could supply electricity to a greater percentage of its own population by producing biomass-fired energy, a new study has revealed.

This year Mozambican sugar mills estimate they will produce 419 000 metric tonnes of sugar—a 68% increase on 2008.

Environmentalists say the waste from this and other resources could see Mozambique become a regional leader in biomass-fired electricity.

‘A Clean Energy Plan for Mozambique”, a report from Mark Hankins, a renewable energy consultant, to be released at the Sandton Solar Energy Conference in October, states that there is significant potential for green biomass, with five large sugar farms that could generate electricity from cane waste.

Converting sugar waste into biofuel could put another 60MW on the grid and could extend electrification into rural areas.

But, disappointingly, the country was still hesitant to take up the challenge to power itself with biomass electricity, instead choosing to back a $2-billion (R14.8-billion) dam on the Zambezi, 70km from Cahora Bassa at Mphanda Nkuwa.

The dam will mostly serve South Africa’s energy needs. It has faced significant criticism from environmentalists, who say it will contribute to water shortages Southern Africa is expected to experience in the next few years because of global warming.

Mozambique exports electricity from Cahora Bassa to Eskom and then reimports it for use in southern Mozambique, with high rates of energy loss during the process.

Hankins argues that the development at Mphanda Nkuwa sees Mozambique putting ‘all of its energy eggs into one basket and water shortages due to global warming will have a profound negative impact on the project and Mozambique’s economy”.

Anabela Lemos of Justica Ambiental, a Mozambican environmental organisation, says: ‘We have 85% of Mozambicans living without electricity. Mozambique is doing 100 000 connections a year but most are in the south. They are not erecting power lines in the north.”

Hankins suggests Mozambique follow the lead of Tanzania and Uganda in developing off-grid rural electrification.

The study details how Mozambique could develop an energy supply system based on clean-energy options that are low-cost, rapidly implementable and suited to the geographical distribution of local demand.

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