Lighting up Africa: A Clean Leap Business towards Self-Sustenance

Figures don’t lie, just like light in darkness. With billions and billions of dollars of aid being pumped into Africa, you would expect massive and drastic change in people’s lives. However, the change remains insignificant, minimal, a vicious sort of a cycle. More needs, more aid and little change. It is in this wake and a desire to bring a lasting change that Katrin Pütz of (B)energy pioneered a social business venture, a clean energy solution that aims, at not only solving an energy crisis, but a social problem too.

(B)energy; what is it…?

(B)energy, a Social Business that provides access to biogas, is a clean leap that has embraced change through an innovative, entrepreneurial, technical, and ecological approach. According to Katrin, the best way to bring change in a developing or poor country is through social change. (B)energy came into existence with the intention of solving energy problems in developing countries, and in the process offering people a chance to make a living as they conserved the environment. Any installation of (B)energy is financially attractive, with the person who has installed it  making a profit by selling the gas. Katrin Pütz, the founder and the heart of (B)energy wants to show that independence for people in developing countries can be achieved by thoroughly redesigning the current aid-driven approach.

Background

(B)energy technology was developed in Germany for developing countries five years ago with the purpose of making biogas a business. In 2013 Katrin accepted an offer from Horn of Africa Regional Environment Centre (HoA-REC) under Addis Ababa University to test her technologies and the social business approach of selling biogas in biogas backpacks in several pilot projects in Ethiopia. In July 2014, she founded (B)energy company through which she now markets mobile biogas solutions. The interest and pull from Ethiopia was there from the word go.

Technology and how it works

(B)energy technology is categorized into three aspects, the (B)plant, the (B)pack and the (B)flame:

The process of gas production begins with the collection of organic waste (e.g. animal dung, kitchen waste, human feces, and agricultural residues) and liquid (water, waste water, urine) mixed and fed into the (B)plant.The material enters the digester on one side, flows through the digester as a “plug” and exits on the opposite side without being mixed with the partly or already fermented substrate.

The (B)plant, which is an above-ground plug-flow system, will not require any agitation for the process to work. The (B)plant is also placed inside a greenhouse which heats up the ambient temperature around the digester and protects the digester from external impacts and direct sunlight. While the sun is shining it becomes very warm inside the greenhouse (up to 60°C), which makes the (B)plant very efficient and the retention time becomes much shorter than in underground digesters.

The produced biogas then flows directly into a (B)pack, where it is stored until it is transported or used.

Image courtesy of (B)energy

Practicality

The (B)energy kit is a practical clean leap. For instance, with 15 kg of cow dung (night dung of 2 cows) and the same amount of waste water (e.g. from kitchen, clothes washing, cleaning), under sunny weather conditions a (B)plant will produce about 1 (B)pack full of biogas, which will serve for 3-4 hours of cooking. The 20 Liter of bio-slurry is a valuable organic fertilizer, which can be applied to plants directly, or can be composted with other organic material or dried.

Clean Energy Option? YES

Embracing the (B)energy technology means reduced deforestation, elimination of indoor air pollution, a drastic reduction of black carbon and methane emissions. In short the effects on the environment and  human health are immediate. (B)energy stands out in the sense that it is a clean leap that goes beyond conserving the environment but human dignity too.

 “Logically no one in a situation they are struggling to survive is interested in saving the environment. People will embrace technology, if it is cheaper or makes money for them.”

Katrin explaining the drive behind their venture, change from within.

They believe any development in the energy field can only sustainably take place when the benefits to the individual are huge to the point the individuals are willing to make it happen. (B)energy creates opportunities designed to empower people and make them independent and gain faith in their potential to find amicable solutions in their own means, and eventually facilitate feelings of dignity and pride which is more effectively achieved through business opportunities rather than charity.

Growth; Way forward

(B)energy uses social franchising for its growth. The company is set in a way that is easily replicated anywhere in the world with little investments by the local people using locally available raw materials. (B)energy offers the solution; however, the initiative comes from the local people, who feel responsible enough, understand the market, and make it successful. The whole idea is to empower people to move away from self pity and realize that it can be done and there is a chance to make it better. According to Katrin,

“No one should depend on pity, because all it does is make one feel small”

Here is a clean leap business venture towards a self-sustaining Africa.

You can apply to become a partner of (B)energy to make mobile biogas technology available in your country by sending an email to info@be-nrg.com.