UNIDO and the Nigerian sugar industry

It doesn’t take a scientist to know Nigeria’s vast energy potentials. Our country is endowed with abundant natural resources which can be easily harnessed and transformed into electricity, fuel and heat. These include fossils and renewable energies. But the irony is that only about 40 percent of the population of that same resource-rich country has access to electricity, and the proportion of access to electricity is even infinitely lower in rural areas.

The worst part of this sad scenario is that successive governments have turned to the wrong side of the solution. For decades, efforts to resolve our energy crisis have focused solely on fossil fuels and have ultimately been unsuccessful. And now that the entire world has made a collective decision to switch from dirty energy sources to clean energy sources – from fossil fuels to renewables – the chicken has returned home to roost. Nigeria is now at a crossroads. We need to do something quickly to join the rest of the world in using renewable energy, which we have in abundance. If we don’t wake up now, we could find ourselves left behind by other countries with only our oil to consume on our own.

This is why it is exciting to see that some rusty clogs in Nigeria’s renewable energy industry are about to start spinning again. And those who were slow in their revolution might now also gain ground. The goal is to move away from energy sources based on fossil fuels and adopt options that do not contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization is a specialized United Nations agency that promotes inclusive and sustainable industrialization in developing countries and economies in transition. It is currently implementing Nigeria’s country program which runs from 2018 to 2022 and includes renewable energy development and environmental management as two stand-alone components out of its nine components. Two weeks ago, UNIDO brought together the main players in the country’s sugar industry for a validation workshop on the assessment of the potential of bioenergy and biofuels in the Nigerian sugar industry.

One might wonder why we are talking about sugar and energy together, they seem so incongruous. According to Jean Bakole, UNIDO representative to ECOWAS and regional director of the Nigeria regional office, the sugar industry also has an option to help solve the problem of energy deficit in Nigeria, as has been proven in countries like Thailand and India.

UNIDO implemented a project titled “Renewable Energy (Biomass) -based Mini-Grids to Increase Rural Electrification” with the aim of promoting renewable energy as an alternative to diesel power generation systems. This is to help reduce and avoid GHG emissions from the energy sector in Nigeria. Funded by the Global Environment Facility, UNIDO worked with the National Sugar Development Council and the Energy Commission of Nigeria to conduct assessments on the sugar industry’s bioenergy and biofuels for cooking. own.

It is an option that is both profitable and meets current food and energy needs as part of a zero waste concept. The sugar cane industry has entered a new phase as the variety and volume of raw materials produced increase dramatically. These include more complex sucrose derivatives such as bioethanol used as liquid fuels, pharmaceutical grade chemicals, and biodegradable plastics. Others include the more intensive use of bagasse as a solid fuel for electricity and gas production and the capture of “waste” from the grinding process which is then turned into fertilizer and animal feed.

Even cane straw – the haulms and leaves that were previously burnt from the cane stalk before harvest – are targeted for use with bagasse in power generation or to be turned into something called ” second generation ”or“ cellulosic ethanol ”.

In a context of growing demand for all forms of natural resources (fuel-ethanol, food, bioelectricity, animal feed, fertilizer and energy), the sugarcane industry is the answer. Specifically for energy, bioelectricity is clean and renewable energy derived from the biomass of sugar cane, which could be used as an alternative to fossil electricity and as a complement to hydropower; at the same time, fuel ethanol from the fermentation of cane juice is a suitable alternative to PMS.

According to Professor Eli Bala, Managing Director and CEO of the Nigeria Energy Commission, the decision to assess bagasse production from sugarcane as part of the Nigeria Agricultural Waste Survey by UNIDO is very timely. In the 1960s, out of sheer need and desire to meet the country’s sugar needs, the federal government stepped up sugar cane production with processing facilities popping up in parts of the country. Today, the processing of sugar cane and other agro-food products in the country has generated a considerable amount of waste which should be converted into useful energy.

Interestingly, UNIDO had been promoting the Waste to Energy (Wealth) initiative in Nigeria since 2012, which had some setbacks, but the organization did not give up. DG ECN had explained that the UNIDO-GEF projects were designed to demonstrate the conversion of biomass into energy by establishing a 5 MW rice husk powered power plant, initially planned in Abakaliki within the Ikwo Rice Mill cluster in the ‘Ebonyi State. But in the end, instead of the targeted 5MW plant, four separate nearly 3MW projects were executed using a special purpose vehicle called the Abakaliki Power Plant Limited which is currently developing a capacity of 1 , 5 MW rice husk gasification projects in Ebonyi State, comprising of a 1000 kW power plant unit in Ikwo and a 500 kW power plant unit in Uburu.

UNIDO went further in assessing sawmill waste production in Ondo State. , Ondo State. Unfortunately, both were recently canceled. Further efforts were made to assess wood waste energy recovery projects in Ogun State, but they were not able to materialize.

Still, I am of the view that the federal government should embrace UNDO initiatives under Nigeria’s zero carbon projects in order to meet our 47% NDC commitment to the UNFCCC in accordance with the Paris Agreement on weather. The closest source of energy after solar radiation is biomass. Nigeria’s biomass energy resources have been estimated at 83 million tonnes of crop residues per year and 61 million tonnes of animal waste per year. Currently, in most agro-industries, this waste is either landfilled or burned. Therefore, through these detailed biomass resource assessments, potential sites would be identified for the replication of biomass-based mini-grids across the country.

In other climates, bioethanol has been set to become a successful alternative to partially replace petroleum as a source of liquid fuels. In Nigeria, the motivation to start the production of bioethanol as an automotive fuel blossomed in 2005 in Davos, Switzerland, during the World Economic Forum, in the presence of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. However, the biofuels industry in Nigeria has made only minimal practical progress since then.

In Nigeria today, around 85 million people do not have access to grid electricity, which is around 43% of the Nigerian population. This practically limits the economic potential of the country. But the proof is now established. We have vast potential; what we need is the collective will to act. Nigeria has great potential to develop this all-inclusive sugarcane energy industry, as the requisite conditions are met: appropriate agro-climatic factors, high photo-intensity in most parts of the country, dynamic workforce and a very large market for food. and energy.

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Rachel J. Bradford