In Ethiopia, a country that is extremely exposed to the effects of climate change, investments in clean energy are the key to sustainable development. Fortunately, several natural resources can be tapped to move the region away from fossil fuels and towards green growth. For instance, Ethiopia has some of Africa's most significant water resources, home to 14 major rivers and 85% of the Nile's water. In addition, its mild temperatures combined with the right latitude make the country particularly suitable for the generation of solar power. Finally, Ethiopia can count on a broad variety of biomass materials, such as Miscanthus or “elephant grass” that grows abundantly in the western part of the country.
Despite their abundance, these natural resources are still widely untapped. Only 1% of Ethiopia’s water resources are currently used for power generation; solar power is produced only at a small scale; and elephant grass is neglected and often consumed by wildfires.
Alphasol Energy, an Ethiopia Climate Innovation Center (ECIC) client, has identified and developed several effective ways to unleash the green potential of the country. Founded in 2010, the company offers integrated, locally relevant clean energy solutions that combine micro-hydropower, biofuels, and solar power. With each micro-hydropower project, Alphosol is able to generate enough energy to power schools, churches, and up to 40 local households. When water resources are not sufficient, small solar panels are utilized to power more houses and provide additional energy for street lamps and solar batteries that can be used for a variety of purposes. To integrate even further its energy offer, the company has developed an innovative system that processes Miscanthus grass to produce pellets. When compared to unprocessed Miscanthus grass, the compressed pellets burn more efficiently with an energy content of 19 GJ/ton and a density of 600 kg/m³.
This high-energy value makes Miscanthus pellets suitable also for industrial use, especially in automatic heating chambers. Local factories, in particular cement production plants, are constantly looking for cheaper and more sustainable alternatives to coal, and Miscanthus pellets may represent an excellent solution. The product can be used as a co-firing fuel along with imported coal to reduce costs and harmful GHG emissions.
Thanks to its innovative products and the growing regional demand, Alphasol Energy is constantly expanding, with current activities in Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Angola, Nigeria, and Uganda. The company was one of the eight winning companies of the first ECIC’s Proof of Concept competition, an initiative designed to identify emerging clean tech ventures across the country. Alpahsol received from the CIC a grant of USD 12,500, as well as technical assistance and advisory services to further develop its integrated energy offer.