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Environmental Goods & Services (EGS) News

Carbon project promises power for more homes - 31 October 2007

Dependence on wood fuel in rural areas could be reduced in a new campaign to help communities gain from the lucrative carbon trading business.

The drive led by Pioneer Carbon Limited hopes to deepen electricity penetration in the countryside through small hydro-power plants on small rivers and harnessing of agriculture waste to produce biogas for domestic cooking.

The company, which develops projects that deliver greenhouse gas reductions around the world, is currently evaluating proposals by community-based organisations on various green projects.

Pioneer Carbon is already involved in financing of the upgrading of the Muhoroni Sugar Company to enable it to produce electricity for its own needs and sell the surplus to the Kenya Power and Lighting Company.

The project is similar to that of Mumias Sugar Company which is on course to produce at least 30 megawatts of electricity using sugar processing by-product known as bagasse.

Earlier in the year, Mumias entered into an agreement with Japan Carbon Finance to buy Carbon Emission Reductions from Mumias beginning next year.

The agreement will see the sugar miller reduce its carbon and methane emission from bagasse, which will be used to generate electricity.

The drive to involve even individuals will further consolidate Kenya’s position as the first African country to engage in and benefit from carbon trading. Most of the projects presented to Pioneer Carbon cover development of biogas, developing small hydro-electricity projects and growing biofuel crops.

Also on target to make gains will be coffee farmers. Kenya Coffee Growers Association chief executive officer Ruth Kyatha said the waste generated during processing of coffee at factory level will be used to develop environmentally friendly fuel and serve as an additional income opportunity for farmers.

“This is a big opportunity that has been presented to us and we are going to work on it as soon as possible,” said Ms Kyatha.

The entry of the carbon trading concept into the rural areas is expected to spur environmentally friendly practices because of the incentives offered through payment of carbon credits, achieved when a company or individual reduces impact on the environment to sell credits on world markets.

A group of farmers who for instance develop a small hydro-power plant as it is happening in parts of Central Kenya region, use it and sell the surplus to the KPLC will qualify for carbon credits because they have offset an activity that is generating carbon dioxide.

A similar benefit will be accorded to farmers who use biodiesel instead of paraffin for home lighting or highly improved jiko that uses 33 per cent less charcoal than the normal jiko. There are many more parameters of gains for individuals and companies in carbon trading.

Pioneer Carbon managing director Tom Morton said the company was keen to invest in the country to help Kenyans develop carbon offset projects. The amount of money the company will commit per project will depend on a specific project need, he said.

“In 2008, we plan to introduce a pellet fuel factory in Kenya that will develop fuel from wood pellets,” he said.

Pellets are made from wood that is cleaned, dried, and ground to a fine powder before being compressed in a die.

Driving off the water increases the energy content, and compression in creases the density – making wood pellets a much cheaper fuel to transport and store than raw wood or wood chips.

Pellets have twice as much energy as raw wood per tonne, and more than eight times as much energy per cubic metre as raw wood chips.

This type of fuel is ideal for industries that are currently using heavy industrial oil to power their operations.

Its introduction will mean that such factories will no longer need that kind of fuel, and subsequently reduce impact on the environment.

Mr Morton said his company would offer technical assistance to help farmers develop, be certified, and sell carbon credits.

Written by Steve Mbogo
Source: Business Daily Africa