Saving trees by using efficient biomass pellets for cooking in Rwanda

Image: Courtesy of Inyenyeri 

About 8.2 million trees were cut down for charcoal in Somalia between 2011 and 2017 and as per 2016 Factfish data,globally 50.8 million tons of charcoal were produced, with Rwanda ranked at the 73th position with 48,000 tons. This data clearly shows the impact on land degradation and that if no strong policies are set in various countries, the climate change consequences will be huge. Thankfully there are still ways to remedy forest degradation by providing alternative, innovative and clean solutions for fuel. 

Rwanda is supporting a number of initiatives that provide clean energy solutions and that is how Inyenyeri, a Rwandan social benefit company started operating in 2010. Founded by Eric Reynold after extensive  research on biomass collection during dry and wet seasons, cost of production he established a pellet factory. Inyenyeri developed a simple and efficient system that comprises a fan gasifying cook stove, with pellets used as fuel which addresses the issue of traditional cooking stoves that emit deadly gases and use a high quantity charcoal.

Pellets are small compressed mass of substance obtained after grinding dry biomass and transformed into small cylindrical shape to allow an usage in the gasifying cooking stove due to their reliable compression level.

The cook stove has a fan at the bottom that helps to maintain the heat level, this fan can either be powered by a normal on-grid electricity or alternatively with a small solar power panel. Inyenyeri provides these cooking stoves free of charge and the users need to buy the fuel (or pellet) which makes it simple. 

Normally, it requires burning 9Kgs of wood to get 1Kg of charcoal which is very inefficient and contributes to forest degradation, whereas to make 1Kg of pellet only requires 1Kg of biomass.

Also 1kg of pellets costs ($0.2 USD) 45% less than 1kg of charcoal.  As a social benefit company, Inyenyeri supports the people in rural areas to acquire this technology, the latter compose the biggest percentage of population. Also people may receive pellets at no cost, in exchange they collect and bring biomass to be turned into pellets. Inyenyeri has so far 2,000 households using the whole system (gasifying cooking stove and pellets) with a plan to be serving at least 150,000 households by 2020.

Rwanda is currently promoting renewable energy and creating a support network for investors in the energy sector. The Government is providing subsidies such as a 2015 law provision that grant 18% VAT exemption to support a rapid development of modern sustainable biomass energy sector.