Pulling the Plug on Fossil Fuel Energy
According to the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, renewable energy will lead developing nations out of energy poverty. Research points to Miscanthus Giganteus as a valuable energy source to support global renewable energy projections.
In the quest for renewable energy sources, to diversify economies away from fossil fuel and mitigate climate change, governments in Europe, North America and East Asia are turning their attention to biomass and how to increase the share of biomass energy.
Biomass energy makes up 77pc of world renewable energy, and trees and woody plants account for 87pc of that biomass. Meeting the 2020 EU renewable energy targets in Europe will require an additional 40 million oven dry metric tonnes (ODMT) of solid biomass to generate electricity and another 50 million ODMT of biomass for heating and cooling. Plans to expand biomass energy will increase demand for biomass up to as much as 60 million tonnes annually, compared with the one million tonnes burnt or co-fired in the country’s biomass power stations today. In Asia, the South Korea Forest service (SKFS) forecasts that pellet demand could rise from 20,000 tonnes in 2010 to five million tonnes in 2020.
Anjuli Bamzia, program director in the National Science Foundation’s Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences says, “To meet the growing energy needs of humanity-at-large in a sustainable manner, it’s important to understand the implications of switching to alternate energy options such as bioenergy." The foundation funded a research study detailing links between the hydrologic cycle and large-scale land conversion, both now and as growing conditions change in the future.
Miscanthus Giganteus was one of the grasses identified by the study as a sustainable energy source and researchers have found that dry, leafless Miscanthus stems can be used as a solid fuel. Miscanthus can be used to produce heat, Combined Heat and Power (CHP) or electrical power on a range of scales; from large power stations (30 MW+) requiring hundreds of thousands of tonnes of biomass annually, to small-scale systems (on-farm or single building) requiring just a few dozen tonnes during winter months.
Major investments in biomass is driving Africa’s economy due to the abundant arable land and consequent financial returns being much higher than anywhere else. Private investment company Insight Group PLC has successfully established BIO E-GRASS™, a government backed project in The Gambia that will see 500 hectares of Miscanthus Giganteus grown for the production of ethanol.
Other African countries set aside for energy crop plantations include Madagascar, Mozambique and Tanzania who will begin exporting wood chips for biomass power to Southern Africa and India.
In 2010, a U.S. company announced the acquisition of a 49 year lease on 5,000ht of land in Ghana for a plantation to produce feedstock for biomass power plants. The company also operates in Guyana, where it leases some 2,000ht, with the option to lease an additional 58,000ht, hoping to export wood chips to the U.S. and the UK.
Western companies are pushing to acquire vast stretches of African land to meet the world's biofuel needs and for investors, growing energy plants in Africa is highly profitable.
Insight Group PLC is leading the way in responsible investing throughout Africa.
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Insight News Desk
2011.03.17 Socially Responsible Investment
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