The first-ever Africa Biogas and Clean Cooking conference was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 5 to 7 April, 2016.
The conference brought together 160 experts from 30 countries working in businesses, knowledge institutes, government, academia and the energy sector to discuss challenges and opportunities in the biogas industry and exchange solutions.
Opening the conference, H.E. Wondimu Tekle, State Minister of Water, Irrigation and Electricity, remarked on Ethiopia’s government commitment towards clean cooking initiatives and bio-digester information. ‘’Our energy policy framework focuses particularly on the development of these huge renewable energy resources to supply the various sectors of the economy and society with adequate, convenient, affordable and reliable energy in a sustainable manner,” he said.
Reiterating the growing need for clean modern energy, African Union’s Head of Energy Division, Atef Marzouk, said, ‘’Biogas is becoming increasingly more popular as a form of energy to power rural communities in Africa who live far away from the electricity grid. As a low-cost integrated system providing alternative energy as well as organic manure, it also provides an answer to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving soil fertility.’’
Jan Willem Nibbering, First Secretary and Food Security Councillor of the Netherlands Embassy in Ethiopia, spoke of biogas as the most advanced and transformative clean energy solution. ‘’Biogas shows how energy, water and food security can be integrated. It is both climate change mitigation and adaptation. It is business development and job creation. It is what we refer to as: climate smart development’,” he noted.
Jean Marc Sika, the Africa Biogas Partnership Programme (ABPP) Fund Manager at Hivos East Africa, urged governments in Africa to prioritise for biogas enterprise development in their countries. He singled out Ethiopia’s success in biogas investment in rural as well as urban areas. “They [most of African governments] are forgetting the bulk of the people living in the rural areas while focusing on providing electricity and cooking gas to the urban population. I think Ethiopia is well placed to put this on top of the agenda for other ministers at the African Union. The government of Ethiopia should convince the governments of other African countries to follow the same model,” Mr Sika said.
Harrie Oppenoorth, Senior Advisor of Energy and Climate Change at Hivos, emphasised the need to shift more attention to other forms of renewable energy besides solar and wind power. “Energy cannot only be derived from electricity, solar panels and wind power, but from biogas as well. Biogas simply means health and clean energy,’’ he added.
The conference also provided an opportunity for participants to showcase some of the best practices and clean cooking energy models in Asian and Latin American countries that can be similarly adapted and scaled up in Africa. Alternative clean fuels such as Ethanol derived from cane molasses and rice husks were discussed. The participants also went on a field tour to some of the target households to get a feel of what clean cooking is really like, for example special Injera (Ethiopian flat bread) baking stoves fired by biogas and organic farms that use bio-slurry as both a fertilizer and an insecticide.