African electricity infrastructure

Africa's urban waste could power 20 per cent of electricity

Electricity produced from waste generated in Africa could meet 20 per cent of the continent's requirements according to a study from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre.

The study, which analysed the potential electricity production from urban solid waste in Africa, found that 122.2TWh could be generated in 2025, enough energy to power 40 million households.

However, it also warned that the continent’s waste is poorly managed. The estimated actual collection figure for waste in 2025 is almost a third lower than that which is produced. Still, the study estimates that 83.8TWh could be generated in 2025 from this – enough for 27 million families.

Many Africans have little or no access to electricity. In 2010, there were more than 600 waste-to-energy facilities in the world, most of them in Europe (472), Japan (100) and the US (86).

In Africa, a very limited share of waste is recovered and reused, and only major or capital cities have waste management systems.

The study states that the use of waste to generate electricity could help to expand access in addition to producing it at a lower cost and carbon footprint than traditional fossil fuels.

Waste being sent to energy recovery would also help to minimise the impact of municipal solid waste on the environment.

Countries with low access to electricity and reduced consumption per capita would particularly benefit from waste-to-energy facilities, including the Central African Republic, Burundi, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Somalia.

“The methodology developed and the results shown here can provide guidance to policy makers in evaluating the potential advantages arising from a modern waste management system including energy recovery,” the study concludes.

According to a UN report in April, the amount of global electronic waste is rising and reached 41.8 million tonnes in 2014. This has a combined estimated value of £35bn, the report found.

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