Turning waste into electricity to benefit Nigeria’s off-grid communities

In Nigeria a young green energy innovator has developed an electric mini-grid powered by biogas made from organic waste, and the power it’s generating, is benefitting 550 people of Rije village in Abuja.

Dubbed Waste2Watt, this first of its kind renewable energy project in the country, is generating 20 kilowatts of power, after converting agricultural and communal organic waste into electricity, by use of a biogas digester.  The electric power generated is then distributed via a mini-grid to the villagers. As a result, the Rije villagers who initially never had any electricity have power for lighting, ironing, and to power household appliances like freezers, television and fans, and the biogas generated for cooking.  According to Fatima Ademoh, the 25 year old Project Developer, for the Rije mini-grid biogas station, to produce the 20 kilowatts of electricity, requires 1.2 tonnes of organic waste daily. This waste is sourced from abattoirs, poultry farms nearby, as well as crop, kitchen, human and food waste from homes.

Getting the organic waste is not a problem, as the area around the Rije mini-grid station, daily generates about 500 metric tonnes of organic waste, which is poorly disposed in landfills or by the roadside.  Each household using the power has a prepaid meter and has been allotted a maximum of 5 kilowatts but they recharge depending on their usage.  Every month of using the power from the mini-grid a villager is spending about USD15.  “This is cheaper for the villagers compared to using petrol or diesel for power,” said Ademoh. A typical household there spends at least USD20 per month to meet their energy needs, according to Ademoh.  For the project to be implemented the United States African Development Foundation (USADF) provided USD100, 000 in funding through the Power Africa Off-grid Energy Challenge.  The funding enabled Ajima Farms and Enterprises Limited which runs the project to construct the biodigester plant on their land.

Ademoh hopes to replicate the Waste2Watt mini-grid model to other parts of rural Nigeria without access to electricity. According to 2014 data by the World Bank only 57.7 percent of Nigeria’s population has access to electricity provided by the government.  She also aims to use the Waste2Watt model to address issues of organic waste disposal to ensure clean living by communities. “Our environment is at risk from deforestation, and this technology is set to encourage the communities to use bio-gas stoves rather than chopping trees for firewood. It is a cleaner and more economical option.” said Ademoh.  The Rije mini-grid project has provided fulltime employment to 8 employees 7 of them being youths.  In addition another 7 youth have been trained on biogas technology, and are now running the project operations beginning with organic waste collection to selling of electricity units.

Our environment is at risk from deforestation, and this technology is set to encourage the communities to use bio-gas stoves rather than chopping trees for firewood. It is a cleaner and more economical option

In Rwanda, use of biogas from human and animal waste to meet the energy needs of 14 prisons resulted in the government saving USD1.7 million annually by 2011, which would have been spent on firewood. With biogas that firewood wage bill reduced by 85 percent and today, 75 percent of the prisons’ energy needs are met by biogas generated from the human and animal wastes.  “We would also like to see the Nigerian government get involved, and adopt this method of alternative energy in some of its institutions like the prisons, as Rwanda has successfully demonstrated.” said Ademoh.  This learning between countries is a great example of a cleanleap - and taking something nobody wants and turning it into an asset.