Dilla Briquette Factory: Ethiopia’s Cleanleap in Recycling Waste to Clean Energy

A few months ago we showed how Ethiopia was turning its waste into energy from the Koshe project. This time we’ll look at an Ethiopian project dealing with waste-to-energy conversion where the smell is quite a bit nicer.

Dilla, a city 361 km South of Addis Ababa, is one of the pivotal areas of coffee production in Ethiopia, with Ethiopia being among the greatest coffee producers in the world. With this, comes a number of challenges such as establishing reliable energy sources for coffee processing and dealing with waste by-products. In July 2011, a plan was resurrected that had laid idle for over 20 years began, which was to create the first Ethiopian Briquette Factory. The process of installation of mechanical and electrical elements were performed by the Horn of Africa Regional Environment Centre and Network (HoA-REC&N) a local NGO and completed on the 30 August 2012, inaugurated on the 15 September 2012 and become fully operational producing 120 quintals of briquette (12 tonnes) in one work shift. This was a move meant to offer an important firewood alternative and also a way of managing coffee husks wastes, all this in the light of urbanization and population growth.

Enjoying Ethiopian Coffee with friends, Image Credit: Hilena Tafesse

This project has made strides in combating deforestation and curbing environmental pollution by the use of recycled materials, especially the coffee husks. The briquettes also offer better economic value alternatives as compared to other sources. These blocks of combustible fuel made from recycled waste products such as coffee husks offer clean and affordable sources of energy to many people in rural areas. This is among the initiatives lead by the Sustainable Energy programme at the HoA-REC&N with immense social economic and environmental benefits to the local society.

The project has a capacity manufacturing of 1.5 tonnes of material per hour, and the yearly capacity ranges from 1,800 to 5,400 tonnes. The briquettes are distributed in Dillaand its surroundings, as well as in deforestation prone zones and fuel scarce areas like Arsi-Negelle in the Central Rift Valley.

This project is a cleanleap for a number of reasons, it provides for the conversion of waste materials into usable fuel, where the environment is preserved and in the process promoting efficient use of resources. The Greenhouse gas emissions (methane) produced from the decay of waste organic materials are reduced, as the organic material is used for the briquettes. There is reduced deforestation with the briquettes offering a substitute source of fuel from the conventional wood and charcoal, with deforestation curbed, the quality of both surface and ground water is improved by reducing land erosion. By replacing polluting fossil fuels, environment quality is improved and the impacts of climate change are reduced. The Dilla Briquette factory is a success story of a country making strides towards embracing cleaner energy sources for a greener country. With the success story of Dilla Briquette Factory, plans are underway of extending operations in other coffee growing regions like Sidamo, Jimma, Harar, Wollega.