Replacing Imported Fuels

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By Wezi Tjaronda Windhoek Experts and interested parties in bio-energy meet tomorrow in Windhoek to agree on a framework that will see Namibia growing and processing bio-oil. The workshop, open to farmers, entrepreneurs, experts in energy fuels and others, will deliberate on a final draft consultancy report on the National Bio-Energy Road Map and agree on the way forward. The production of bio-energy in the country would not only yield energy products such as bio-fuel but also adds potential for environmental goods and services such as carbon gains and bio-diversity conservation. The roadmap on which the workshop will deliberate identifies and analyses the relevant system of elements of bio-energy production and use in Namibia within the context of policy and strategy and also identifies the appropriate strategy that the country should follow to achieve a sustainable bio-energy industry. Over 50 people have so far registered for the daylong workshop, according to Christof Brock, the Namibia Agronomic Board’s Chief Executive Officer and also the chairman of the Interim Bio-Energy Committee. The government funded the study to draw up a roadmap for all decisions, institutional arrangements, international agreements, legislation to create a conducive environment in Namibia to grow and process bio-oil. The draft report says Namibia has a highly energy-intensive economy while its energy requirements are still modest compared to other countries in the southern African region, due to its small population. It solely relies on imports for fuel and most of its electricity needs. Bio-fuels are becoming popular alternatives due to increasing prices of crude oil-based liquid fuels. Some EU countries and others like China and India are rapidly developing bio-energy strategies. Brock said of all the other bio-energy crops, consultants who have been preparing the roadmap have found Jatropha, a plant growing locally as well as in other parts of Africa, South America and India, to be the most viable. “There are good prospects if the country works in unity,” said Brock, adding that institutional arrangements on where government ministries of the private sector will spearhead the process. He said it was possible for Namibia to plant over 60 000 hectares of the perennial crop, which apart from producing bio diesel from, would also enable small-scale and commercial farmers to diversify their production. Bio-diesel, added Brock, is a better model compared to ethanol, which is produced from maize because Namibia does not even produce enough maize for consumption. Meanwhile, a seed company, according to the CEO has already imported seeds from India in anticipation that there will be demand when the project gets off the ground. “Lots of farmers want to start,” he added. Assuming that the targeted area of 63 000 hectares is grown by 2013, this would translate into an industry that contributes 0.5 percent of GDP. Namibia could also earn around N$4.5 million through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which could be raised by commissioning 12 Bio-diesel generators of 1MW capacity, each requiring about 2 million litres of fuel per year. “In total, 24 million litres of Fatty Acid Methyl Ester (FAME) produced from 24 000 hectares of Jatropha plantings replace the equivalent of 61 000 tonnes of fossil fuel-based carbon emissions,” says the draft report. Jatropha takes three years to start yielding cash flows. Draft final reports are available at the Agronomic Board upon registration for the workshop, which costs N$220 for late registrations.