Africa | Regional

Bioenergy for Sustainable Energy Access in Africa

Clients: Department for International Development


PHASE I (2016-2017)

During 2016 and 2017, a consortium lead by LTS International in partnership with E4tech and the University of Edinburgh implemented a 12 month investigation into the challenges and opportunities affecting the adoption of modern bioenergy technologies in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Based on the identified barriers and opportunities, the study suggested where future research and investment in this area should be channeled by DFID, to support the development of innovative solutions.

Approach and Findings

A variety of potentially suitable bioenergy technologies (were investigated through review of academic and non-academic literature, and mapping of stakeholders in SSA, to provide evidence for narrower technology prioritisation. The result of this mapping exercise was the identification of the three potential technologies suitable for further in-depth research and investigation. There were:

  1. a) Combustion-to-steam turbine; b) Gasification-to-internal combustion engine; and c) Anaerobic digestion-to-internal combustion engine.

As part of the following technology prioritization phase, the team set out to prioritize bioenergy technologies that have been attempted at verifiable operational sites in SSA. The team found Anaerobic Digestion seemed to have the highest success rate in the sub 5MW range based on a range of factors such as deployment levels in SSA, widespread adoption outside SSA, feedstock flexibility, relatively passive mode of fuel production and co-benefits from waste disposal and digestate production. Gasification has an inconsistent track record, with half a dozen operational projects, but a high failure rate. Steam Turbines were not found at small scale in SSA, so offered no opportunity for further case study research.

The team carried out an extensive country case study research visiting 12 biogas and 6 gasification plants in seven countries in East, West and Southern Africa. The aim was to identify barriers to replication that DFID-funded research could help unlock. Desk-based techno-economic research into < 1MW steam turbines was also carried out to identify potential opportunities for further DFID research.

Although a host of different barriers were identified with respect to the successful deployment and operation of Anaerobic Digestion in SSA, interestingly 3 of the 12 AD projects which were commercially and technically successful shared the same characteristics. This indicated research and innovation has a role to play in ensuring these successful pre-conditions. Regarding gasification, none of the 6 visited sites were found to be technically or commercially successful and the barriers to replication identified were too wide-ranging and significant to be overcome through research. With respect to steam-turbines, the team found that there was research potential towards retrofitting such systems for CHP plants with heat and power requirements.

Value and benefits

Based on the results of these case studies, we suggested possible research areas for a potential open call in BSEAA Phase II (within the TEA programme) which could help to harness this potential. The overall goal is to promote affordable, accessible and innovative bioenergy technologies that will improve poor people’s access to bioenergy.

Furthermore, our collective expertise and knowledge gained through this research allows LTS and its partners to provide services to clients in the African bioenergy sector targeted towards pre-feasibility assessments, Due-Diligence studies and Technical Evaluation of Commercial Proposals.

The summary statement below provides more insights into the types of barriers and research opportunities identified and the supporting official report contains a detailed run through of the case study findings and analyses.

Click below to view the Bioenergy Scoping Study and Technology Country Case Study Reports

Bioenergy for Sustainable Energy Access in Africa (PDF, 332 KB)

Technology Country Case Study Report (PDF, 5MB)


PHASE II (2019-2021)

The Carbon Trust has appointed a consortium led by LTS International with Aston University, E4Tech (UK) and Aiguasol (Spain) to carry out a two-year research for the second phase of the Bio-energy for Sustainable local Energy Services and Energy Access in Africa (BSEAA) programme, a constituent programme of the UK Department for International Development’s (DFID) Transforming Energy Access (TEA) programme. This research follows a Phase 1 scoping study carried out during 2016 and 2017. It focuses on ten Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) countries in West, East and Southern Africa.

BSEAA2 is targeted at bio-energy (biomass energy) entrepreneurs (particularly technology and project developers), investors and policy makers, to examine the commercial viability of bio-energy technologies in SSA.

The Project will work closely with participants and partners engaged with the TEA Programme, Energy Catalyst, Innovate UK and others who are either already active in SSA, or are interested in becoming active in SSA in the bio-energy field. The research will have a practical focus. It is designed to lead to development of practical resources and tools that will assist industry and investors to assess the feasibility, use and applications of bio-energy technologies. The research will focus on commercially trialled and mature bio-energy technologies (Technology Readiness/TR Level 5+) in the small-to-medium scale (10 kWe to 5 MWe) range suitable for commercial and productive uses of energy.

The BSEAA2 team is seeking to engage with developers, investors and policymakers to identify key challenges in bringing bio-energy technology and projects to SSA markets. The project aims to assess the suitability of promising bioenergy pathways, “sweet spot” regions in SSA for in-depth research and analysis, and help identify key actions required to make these commercial realities.

Key Staff

Ankit Agarwal

Senior Consultant