UNEP Brews Up Green Energy Revolution in Tea and Sugar Industries

Posted on 9 November 2007. Filed under: Energy, Environment |

Global Environment Facility-Backed Projects to Harvest Power from Millions of Farmers across Eastern and Southern Africa

Cups of tea are becoming more environmentally-friendly courtesy of a new UNEP-led initiative, announced today to deliver small-scale hydro electric power to plantations across East Africa.

Those who enjoy a spoonful of sugar in their favourite day time drink have double-cause to celebrate. In a separate but related initiative, sugar farmers will take part in a cogeneration project funded by the Global Environment Facility. Farmers will use waste from the sugar industry to generate electricity, in turn fuelling economic and rural growth in an environmentally safer way.

These GEF-funded projects build on the successes with cogeneration in the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, where up to 40 per cent of the country’s electricity needs are met by waste by-products from the sugar industry.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said today: “Tea is known to be good for you, now it is also getting better for the environment. The decision by some countries in East Africa to establish Power Purchase Agreements – contracts that allow unconventional generators of electricity to sell surplus power back to the Grid – has opened up a raft of new opportunities for cleaner and renewable energy generation”.

Monique Barbut, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility, said this latest partnership between GEF and UNEP is a concrete example of how under the right government policy framework, sustainable development can work, and does work.

“These two new UNEP-led projects showcase the multiple benefits sustainable development can have for rural areas, offering social, economic and environmental benefits that help locally and globally, ” she said.

Barbut and Steiner noted that the two new projects, announced today, offer the chance to develop new forms of indigenous energy generation that will assist with development in rural areas and help overcome poverty; reduce dependency on often imported and expensive fossil fuels while having the spin off benefit of contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gases.

The importance of harnessing alternative forms of energy generation is highlighted in the latest assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and UNEP’s new state of the world environment report – the recently launched Global Environment Outlook-4.

“In December, in Bali, governments will meet to define the ground rules for a new international emissions reductions regime to kick in post 2012.UNEP’s slogan is ‘Transition to a Low Carbon Society’-this is a transition that is just as important for developing and for developed countries. There is no reason why nations of the South must or should follow the dirty development paths of the past,” said Mr Steiner.

The two pioneering initiatives – Cogeneration for Africa and Small Hydro for Greening the Tea Industry are being spearheaded by UNEP with the African Development Bank as co-implementer, supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

The projects, worth around $100 million in total, are also being executed by the East African Tea Trade Association (EATTA) and the Energy, Environment and Development Network for Africa(AFREPREN/FWD).

Greening the Tea industry

The small-scale hydro initiative is expected to reach over 8 million people in the tea industry – a principal source of convertible currency for Eastern and Southern Africa.

With an initial target of 10MW of small hydro, the project is eventually expected to stimulate 82MW of small hydro capacity in the region. Burundi, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia are among the countries which have already endorsed this initiative.

As well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the hydro power will reduce energy costs, enhance the African tea industry’s global competitiveness, and spread clean electricity to rural communities. In the long run, the scheme will also set the stage for the development of a vibrant local industry for hydro design, manufacturing, operation and maintenance.

Cogeneration for Africa

This first-of-its-kind project is designed to boost cogeneration – the use of agricultural waste to produce energy – across Eastern and Southern Africa. The scheme will aim to reach around 10 million sugar farmers and their dependants in Kenya, Ethiopia, Malawi, Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania and Swaziland.

The initiative is expected to bring on stream 60MW of cleaner power generation capacity in its initial pilot phase, and eventually set the stage for the installation of over 200MW of cogeneration capacity across the region.

By relying on low-cost, renewable indigenous fuels such as sugar byproducts and offcuts from the timber industry, these cogeneration units will cut greenhouse gas emissions and reduce energy costs for the region’s agro-processing and forest industries. They will also enhance the competitiveness of the region’s farm and forestry products, boost investment in the region and set the stage for rural electrification in the region.

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is an international financial mechanism with 178 member countries that addresses global environmental issues while supporting national sustainable development initiatives. GEF grants support projects in developing countries related to biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, the ozone layer and persistent organic pollutants. Since its inception in 1991, GEF has achieved a strong track record of support to developing countries and countries with economies in transition, providing $6.2 billion in grants and leveraging $20 billion in co-financing for over 1,800 projects in over 150 countries. Through its Small Grants Programme (SGP), GEF has also made more than 7,000 small grants, up to $50,000 each, directly to nongovernmental organizations and community organizations.

UNEP is involved in a series of projects to address environmental consequences of energy production and use, and assists decision-makers in governments and the private sector to make better, more informed energy choices which fully integrate environmental and social costs.

GEO-4, which was released on 25 October, is the latest in a series of flagship UNEP reports assessing the current state of the global atmosphere, land, water and biodiversity. It is the most comprehensive UN report on the environment, prepared by about 390 experts and reviewed by more than 1,000 others across the world over a five-year period.

For more information on the projects, go to:




Or contact:

Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson, at tel: +254 20 762 3084, mobile: +254 733 632755, or: +41 795965737, or e-mail: nick.nuttall@unep.org Anne-France White, Associate Information Officer, at tel: +254 20 762 3088, or e-mail: anne-france.white@unep.org


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2 Responses to “UNEP Brews Up Green Energy Revolution in Tea and Sugar Industries”

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Everything is very open with a very clear explanation of
the issues. It was definitely informative. Your site is very
useful. Many thanks for sharing!

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    A blog created to cover environmental and political information in Kenya with a view to promoting POVERTY ALLEVIATION through creating awareness of the Millennium Development Goals


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