Students Go Green to End Global Energy Poverty

A Congolese man transports charcoal on his bicycle outside
Lubumbashi in the DRC. Credit: Miriam Mannak/IPS

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe , Oct 15 2018 (IPS)

In Africa, over 640 million people – almost double the
population of United States – have no access to electricity, with
many relying on dirty sources of energy sources for heating,
cooking and lighting.

While not offering a solution to the electricity gap in Africa,
Brian Kakembo Galabuzi, a Ugandan economics student, can offer a
cleaner and cheaper solution.

Galabuzi is the founder of Waste to Energy Youth Enterprise
(WEYE), which is registered as a limited company that makes
carbonised fuel briquettes from agricultural waste materials and
organic waste.

Galabuzi got the idea after networking with other students
concerned about global energy poverty at the 2015 International
Student Energy Summit in Bali, Indonesia. Energy poverty is
as the lack of adequate modern energy for cooking, warmth,
lighting, and essential energy services for manufacturing,
services, schools, health centres and income generation.

WEYE was created with the basic idea of commercialising grass
root bio-waste to energy solutions in order to create a youth-led
clean cooking transition in Uganda.

The promise of a financial income or benefit have been effective
hooks to get young people to embrace sustainable energy as a source
of income. The  youth promote sustainable energy because they want
to earn from it, says Galabuzi.

“We believe that the benefits of sustainable energy, such as
time saving, clean air, environmental conservation and good health
are not what the highly-unemployed youth what to hear,” Galabuzi
tells IPS.

“The majority of the world’s population is youth – of
which the biggest population is unemployed. This why we designed a
solution based on financial benefit (income generating opportunity)
for unemployed youth and women,” he says.

Resource rich but energy poor

Africa is energy rich but nearly two thirds of its population of
more than 1,2 billion have no access to electricity.

The African continent has an estimated 10 terawatts of potential
solar energy, 350 gigawatts (GW) of hydroelectric power and 110 GW
of wind power. All these sources can be harnessed with the right
investment, a 2015 study by influential consulting company,
McKinsey & Company found.

However, poor investment in off-grid connections in Africa means
that polluting fossil fuels and biomass are major energy sources.
However, off grid connections can provide clean and affordable
energy to millions of people while helping reduce carbon emissions
and preventing indoor pollution.

Growing energy demand in Africa and other developing economies
presents an urgent need for the promotion and provision of more
affordable and cleaner energy. Wood, charcoal, grass and solid
waste, such as animal and human waste, are forms of biomass that
can be converted into fuel and used as energy sources.

In Africa, over 640 million people have no access to
electricity, with many relying on dirty sources of energy sources
for heating, cooking and lighting. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

A clean energy business

And students like Galabuzi are seeing opportunities here.

While acknowledging that his company is not the first to make
briquettes, Galabuzi says what is unique is that the briquettes are
made from organic waste materials and sold to institutions that use
firewood – 80 percent of which harvested in Uganda. Recent

indicate that Uganda is at risk of losing all its
forest in 40 years unless it halts deforestation. This is largely
due to population growth and increased demand for land and firewood

“Our solution guarantees our clients a 35 percent reduction in
cost of cooking fuel, 50 percent reduction in cooking time and,
most importantly, a smoke free cooking environment for the cooking
staff,” Galabuzi tells IPS.

Galabuzi says despite the presence of solar, hydro power and gas
as alternative sources of cooking energy, fuel briquettes are
affordable and efficient energy alternatives.

A pilot of the fuel briquettes at St. Kizito High School, a
school based in Kampala, Uganda’s capital, and the first school
to adopt WEYE’s technology, showed encouraging results. Galabuzi
explains the school registered an annual financial saving of over
USD 2,500, a 50 percent reduction in cooking time and increased job
satisfaction among the cooking staff due to the healthy, clean and
smokeless cooking conditions.

“Our project uses organic waste from farmers and food markets
such as maize cobs, banana peels and many others, which were
considered useless,” he says.

“We offer the farmers and waste collectors monetary value for
this organic waste and give them a new avenue to generate income,
boosting the agricultural and waste management sectors.”

Galabuzi says his business has the potential of employing over
40 individuals in waste collection, sorting, production, marketing,
distribution and finance.  It also has a potential market of over
30,000 institutions in Uganda. Already WEYE is training youth and
women how to make briquettes and to start up their own briquette
companies, with support from the Uganda government youth fund.

The WEYE Clean Energy Company
Limited is authorised to sell charcoal briquettes and clean cook
stoves in Uganda. The business model was tested during an 8-week
‘Greenprenuers’ programme run by the Global Green Growth
Initiative, Youth Climate Labs and Student Energy (SE).

A woman in Uganda’s Katwe slum uses an improved, energy-saving
stove to reduce charcoal use. Credit Wambi Michael/IPS

Students driving sustainable energy

SE is a global organisation, based in Alberta, Canada. It builds
the potential of young people to accelerate subsistence energy
transitionthrough training, coaching and mentorship.

The interest in energy by SE, which has a membership of 50,000
young people from 30 different countries around the world, led to a
partnership with Seoul-based Global Green Growth Initiative (GGGI)
to promote the young ‘greenpreneurs’ programme. This programme
gives the youth opportunities to turn innovative ideas into green
businesses in sustainable energy, water and sanitation, sustainable
landscapes and green cities.

“We got interested in greenpreneurship because a lot of people
in our network are interested in energy but are more at a systems
level and how energy connects to gender, empowerment, access to
clean sources of fuel, access to energy in remote areas and smart
technology,” Helen Watts, director of Innovation and Partnerships
at SE, tells IPS.

Global discussions on energy, while politicised, have previously
been at commercial and academic levels. But SE has opened a
platform to promote wider discussions on finding and implementing
innovative solutions to solving the energy challenge and help meet
the Sustainable Development Goals.

Watts says the partnership with GGGI is an opportunity to open
up GGGI’s youth entrepreneurship model, which is country
specific, into a global accelerator model with young people from
emerging and developing economies. Another organisation, the Youth
Climate Lab, an innovation lab space organisation that seeks to
build the capacity of young people to participate in the climate
policy, innovate and collaborate on climate adaptation and
mitigation, has been brought in as a partner.

“Young people have this incredible capacity to break the kind
of zero sum game of sustainability of profitability,” says

“They have an amazing ability to think outside boxes of what
has been done and collaborate with different peers and community
members to map out these incredible solutions to both grow their
communities and local economies while providing cleaner, affordable
solutions to different challenges community members are

SE was started in 2009 by a group of students who worked in the
energy industry in Canada and every two years it organises an
international summit on the future of sustainable energy as a
platform to talk about energy transition.

The first International Student Energy Summit in 2009 brought
together 350 students from 40 countries. The 6th International
Students Energy Summit was hosted in Mexico in 2017 with 600
students from 100 countries. Next year the summit will be in London
and is expected to attract 700 students.

SE has also developed energy chapters in Africa, the Caribbean,
Europe, North America, Oceania, South America and South Asia, which
are like student clubs in post-secondary institutions. The chapters
are supported to help members develop their green energy ideas into
reality in their communities. The first chapters were established
in United Kingdom, Nigeria and Canada.

“Energy has really captured me and inspired me to dedicate my
entire career to energy transition projects because of how
fundamental energy is to our everyday lives,” Sean Collins, a
co-founder of SE, tells IPS, adding that the value of energy is
embedded in the work of SE that there is consideration of both
energy’s striking benefits and its impacts.

“I think the thing I am most proud of has been our work to set
the expectation that youth deserve a seat at the table in all
energy conversations as a peer with older generations, policy
makers, legacy industry and other groups. It is our generation that
will be primarily responsible for the practical transition to a
lower carbon economy, so we need to be an active participant in
these discussions from day one.”

Fostering discussions and implementation of energy innovations
creates impact. Businesses like Galabuzi’s WEYE clean energy
company can be potential models to provide energy to more 600
million people in Africa who go without electricity.

The post
Students Go Green to End Global Energy Poverty
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Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Students Go Green to End Global Energy Poverty