To build sustainable, non-food, renewable biofuel supply chains for providing combined cooling heat and power (CCHP) electricity, and in the future, the chemical feed stocks needed to replace fossil fuels, by linking the relevant science and technology academics, professionals, decision-makers and support scheme managers from South Africa, Namibia, Ghana, Italy and the UK in a series of inter-regional and intra-regional workshops.
In Europe, a market for carbon was created in 2005 in the form of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to help meet the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol. The key areas for ensuring EU ETS meets its potential are setting safe, stable and affordable emissions limits; building a global carbon market; expanding the scheme; and improving efficiency.
Biofuels hold the capacity to meet energy demands with a low/zero carbon footprint. They are still the only renewable energy technology that actually sucks CO2 out of the atmosphere via photosynthesis. Furthermore, liquid biofuels will drive CCHP engines to deliver energy with high efficiency (38% electricity, 42% heat). CCHP also offers: off grid electricity on demand; low/zero carbon emissions; heat-sterilised water; cold storage; and job security for local communities.
In Africa, CCHP installations running on biofuels would be of tremendous value because they could deliver electricity to small rural communities for which connection via the grid is too costly. Using locally-sourced biofuel they would also be able to provide energy with an optimal carbon footprint with the least energy losses. They would target poverty eradication at the small-scale farmer level, increase living standards, lower fossil fuel use and improve the ecological footprint of energy production. Furthermore, since African countries have the potential to produce biofuels at a far greater rate than Europe by virtue of favourable climatic conditions, sales of biofuels could be linked to global market demand and carbon trading schemes. However, the necessary biofuel supply chains are in their infancy.
The project will address the lack of necessary technical skills, limited knowledge of renewable biofuels or of CCHP, insufficient investment in agronomic, genetic, technical, and ecological research and innovation areas, and insufficient investment in necessary capital equipment or in supporting new businesses.
The project concentrates on the organisation of nine workshops and three promotional activities centred on two types of supply chain:
Supply chains for an existing non-food plant, with well-developed agricultural know-how, as exemplified by Jatropha curcas:
- integration of Jatropha into small-scale farming represents a source of income for rural communities from the supply of plant oil for fuel, or for bio-based chemicals;
- Jatropha is environmentally sustainable and captures carbon;
- Jatropha can put marginal land into production;
- the harvested product can be locally sourced and processed; and
- Jatropha cultivation provides job security for local communities.
Supply chains for emerging biofuels, where new cultivation methods are required, exemplified by microalgae. Microalgae have enormous potential to contribute to global efforts to deliver a sustainable alternative to fossil-based fuels:
- they capture carbon and harness sunlight energy in the form of oil or carbohydrate reserves such as glycerol;
- they can be produced in solar salt-water ponds and brackish water where they form no threat to drinking water supplies; and
- they sequester nutrients (N, P, K) from effluent waste waters.
Workshops will build capacity in the research institutes and universities:
- To develop the supply of sustainable biofuel from second generation oil-bearing plants (Jatropha, Salicornia) and from microalgae;
- To develop new bio-based, renewable products with high value that could replace fossil-based pharmaceutical or chemical equivalents, or serve to underpin new developments aimed at biorefining; and
- To develop relevant training programmes, e.g. training for staff in Energy Services Companies (ESCos), offering biofuel CCHP / training for staff in plant processing businesses that are extracting oil from seed or glycerol from microalgae.
Promotional activities include:
- Stimulation of investment in new biofuel businesses, e.g. ESCos seeking to supply renewable CCHP electricity; plant processors extracting oil from seed or glycerol from microalgae;
- Fostering partnerships between renewable bioenergy businesses and farming / aquaculture supply chains; and
- Promotion of success stories and best practices in businesses, commercial buildings, etc. and the public sector on the effects of taking up biofuel technologies, e.g. by installing renewable CCHP systems for electricity, so that more actors become engaged with the need for low /zero CO2 emissions in energy generation.