Africa’s first waste-to-energy plant opens in Cape Town

On 25 January, in what is thought to be the first of its kind in Africa, a ZAR 400 million waste-to- energy conversion plant was officially opened in Cape Town, South Africa. The plant will be run by New Horizons Energy and was built in collaboration between Waste Mart and Clean Energy Africa.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Cape Town’s Major Patricia de Lille, is quoted by News24 as saying “This is an exciting addition to the green economy in Cape Town.” The new plant is expected to help reduce the amount of waste collected in Cape Town’s landfill sites as well as to create new jobs. It also helps the city’s move towards having 20% of renewable energy as part of its overall energy mix.

At present, the City of Cape Town generates around 8,000 tonnes of waste per day and has high landfill prices. The new plant is expected to use around 500 tonnes of waste per day generated from organic household, municipal and industrial sources “in an anaerobic process, to produce methane, food-grade carbon dioxide, and organic fertilizer.” Everything produced by the plant’s mechanical processes is used, thereby ensuring that it produces “zero waste,” and is then sold at a profit. Egmont Otterman, the CEO of New Horizons Energy, commented that if another eight waste-to-energy plants of this type, were built then the City of Cape Town would have no further need for landfill sites.

Expected to employ 80 people initially the plant has helped create new jobs in the City of Cape Town. Helen Zille, the Premier of the Western Cape province, said the plant would not only contribute to the city’s energy stability but it would also allow “Africa to leap-frog centuries of technology to be at the forefront of energy creation.”

The City of Cape Town is taking further steps to increase the amount of renewable energy generated as part of its overall energy mix. It plans to take South Africa’s Minister of Energy, Tina Joemat-Pettersson to court, in order to enable it to purchase electricity from independent power providers (IPPs) and not just the national electricity provider Eskom. Says de Lille “We have the choices, but we are prevented through national government from exercising these choices, so that is what we are testing.” She adds that “We applied more than two years ago, for her to give us that permission to buy directly from IPPs and there’s nothing forthcoming. So, we have got no option but to go to court and to ask the court to rule on it.”