Energy is one of the world’s most crucial crisis to date considering the growing demand for electricity and energy. However, using traditional sources such as fossil fuels is gradually siphoning the world supply and its prices are unbearable for developing countries. Several alternative energy and renewable sources have been cited to enable each country to sustain their demand, one of them being renewable energy from plants and wastes or biomass. Biomass appeals to many developing countries considering that sources for this type of energy is visible around the society and for Egypt, this alternative energy would be beneficial for its constant blackouts. In order to prove that developing countries such as Egypt can benefit from biomass, this study would tackle on the analysis of biomass materials and their energy production capacity and highlight why biomass has endless possibilities on energy production through an experiment that identifies how much is needed to produce energy. This study claims that developing countries like Egypt can benefit greatly from biomass and while there are some lapses that needs to be considered, it is also perceived that the results of the study will highlight the beauty of biomass.
Energy has long been an issue for many countries around the globe, especially when it comes to getting sources for such power. With the demand for fossil fuel slowly depleting the world’s many oil fields, calls for the use of alternative and renewable energies have been passed to sustain the high demand and sustain the current stock for fossil fuel. Some countries have adopted alternative or renewable energies such as solar, wind and hydro power; while others have also used nuclear energy. While it is undeniable that these sources are indeed environment friendly as compared to the fossil fuels and efficient, not all countries have the capacity to harness these alternative and renewable energies. In response to this, another alternative for small and developing countries is proposed and it is called bio-fuel or biomass.
Biomass has actually been used since ancient history as a form of energy to provide warmth and provide heat for cooking in many parts of the globe. Biofuel, or biomass, according to Sims (2002) pertains to “recent organic matter originally derived from plants as a result of the photosynthetic conversion process, or from animals, and which is destined to be utilized as a store of chemical energy to provide heat, electricity or transport fuels.” Aside from wood, biomass can be taken from agricultural by-products such as corn stalks, straw, wood waste, sewage sludge and animal waste. The power of biomass can be compared to solar energy as it has the same chemical energy coming from solar energy through the use of photosynthesis, which allows the plants to take on carbon dioxide and water, using the energy from sunlight to generate energy. The power of biomass within each organism varies depending on the active heat radiation received by a particular location. For example, if a vegetative grass called Miscanthus is planted in a field, it can yield around 20 GJ/t o r180 GJ available energy once harvested .
If biomass is indeed this beneficial and can be taken from regularly ignored wastes and byproducts, how then can be used to sustain the energy demand for countries such as Egypt? According to Farid (2014), the country continuously faces heavy electricity black outs due to the shortage of fuel, which is required to power up the country’s power grids. With the decline of fuel sources to power up these grids, Egypt’s power grid has a 2,500 megawatt (MW) deficit despite allocations of EGP 23 billion for electricity subsidies . Aside from the problems in fuel supply to power up the country’s electricity grid, Raslan (2013) added that since 1975, the country’s demand for electricity has increased as Egypt has the highest electrification ratio in the entire Middle East. However, with the increase of users, the grid is unable to cater to a consumer ratio almost 23.8 million households from the old 4.5 million household catered in the 1980s. Grid infrastructure has also disabled Egypt from providing electricity and energy to many sectors, having high transmission losses of almost 22.16%. Although the country has established several means to sustain the demand by the use of oil, natural gas and even alternative energy, fuel shortages continues to reduce the country’s electricity capacity. The resulting impact of these shortages led to serious economic losses such as the halt in the stock market and increasing plant maintenance work that cost millions of dollars in the process .
While Egypt already uses alternative fuels to sustain the demand, it is still not enough to fill the demand; which is why putting biofuels in the country would be an ideal solution. In order to see whether or not Egypt can benefit from biofuels, this study would incorporate data from other developing countries which has already used biomass energy for their energy demand. Utilizing these data would highlight the economic and environmental benefits or cost of applying biomass to the country that will be compared to Egypt. Additional data would also include the power generating capacity of biomass, as well as the net energy balance of biomass. For this study, data coming from Southern Africa will be used as a case study to show that a developing region can benefit from biomass despite identified issues.
This study anticipates that the use of biomass energy for Egypt would be beneficial considering that other developing countries have already proven its capacity to sustain their energy demand, as well as other additional features. It is anticipated that economically, the use and production of biofuel can open a new market for those wishing to switch or use biofuels and improve biofuel production around the globe. It is also perceived that the use of biofuels can reduce the prices of energy produced by this alternative energy source and can compete in the market. It is also anticipated by the researcher that it would sustain the energy demand and improve the energy networks and open new economic opportunities. In an environmental aspect, it is perceived that utilizing biofuel can reduce the amount of wastes which continues to pollute and affect the globe. Most wastes produced by the world each year has the capacity to generate biofuel and with wastes piling up in streets, it would allow the community to experience a clean environment. It is also anticipated that the greenhouse gas emissions from these biofuels would be reduced.
In order to analyze whether or not biofuels have the potential to replace non-renewable energies and benefit developing countries like Egypt, an experiment to see the net energy capacity of each biomass source to see how much it can produce would be suitable. According to his study, McKendry (2001) argued that several factors may determine the overall yield/output of biomass for energy production. From climate, soil, moisture, chemical content and density, each biomass is unique from one another and can produce electricity. Table 1 showcases such differences in biomass sources.
Considering these differences in properties, energy production varies extensively. For example, wood derived from short rotation coppices (willow bark and poplar) can generate an average lower heating value (LHV) of 18 MJ/kg. If one 1kg of woodchips is converted into energy, it can create a 1 kWh(e) through a gas engine generator which allows it to become 20% more efficient than other electricity providers. If the yields are increased to 15 dmt/ha/a, 1 hectare of SRC biomass can already create 15 MWh(e)/a each year. A gas generator is prudent in generating this power and if the gas generator has the capacity of 100kW(e), it would need 55 hectares of biomass to sustain the demand. With biomass already possessing energy from within its form, the combustion process can allow this energy to be released and converted depending on the size of the plant .
Seeing that biomass has the capacity to generate enough power to sustain energy deficits in developing countries, some developing countries have already received some benefits such as the Southern African countries. According to Chakauya, Beyene and Chikwamba (2009), Southern Africa’s total energy supply grows in a slow pace, with only a 5.2% increase each year despite having the 9.5% of the world’s reserves for oil. Despite being the region’s largest economic powerhouse, Southern Africa is left with heavy electricity blackouts and high electricity demand. Biomass is currently seen as a solution to the South African energy crisis problem because of its capacity to allow diversified energy sources and remove the necessity for oil imports. One of the most crucial benefits of biofuel in the Southern African countries is its capacity to reach the energy demands of the rural communities, no longer requiring to enter the poorly connected grid networks in the country. Rural schools and health facilities in rural areas are now given electricity and allow economic growth. Since biofuels can be created through waste and other organic sources, it can open new industries for small-scale power producers in the rural areas to remove the necessity of importing fossil fuels. It also enables the reduction of costs for electricity and allow small-scale farmers and entrepreneurs to suppliers of biofuels. Environmental benefits include the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, especially from wastes and energy production .
Considering the small study conducted, applying the same alternative energy source would benefit Egypt greatly. According to Nakhla, Hassan and El Haggar (2013), Egypt has immense sources for biomass as waste has piled up alongside the streets, contaminating the air, soil and waters. These wastes are also assorted – from organic municipal waste to sewage sludge. Having biomass use is perceived to be beneficial for Egypt in the extent it can provide carbon neutral fuel and power and reduce illegal dumping and burning. Biomass energy is also quite dangerous if left unsorted. It is estimated that the country’s municipal waste to almost 19.7 million tons per year and most of these wastes are found in the rural areas. It is also surmised by the experts that Egypt’s use of biomass would allow the country to remedy its ailing economy and environmental protection measures as biomass would reduce its emissions immensely .
With the data given in the study in the previous chapter, Egypt can utilize biomass by implementing a framework that would get the attention of the public regarding biomass, as well as improve its use by small, medium and large industries. The framework can include the following points:
- Research and identification of biomass materials and infrastructure
- Information dissemination regarding biomass and advocacy
- Training of small and medium groups for biomass production
- Establishment of local, state and national policies on biomass use and production
- Bilateral and multi-lateral partnerships with other countries on biomass use, production and investment
- Opening of job and economic opportunities, especially on rural areas for biomass related employment.
If Egypt indeed implements a biomass production and distribution capacity, it is predicted that it would be able to sustain the demand of its electricity subscribers especially in the poorest and unreached areas of the country. With biofuel easy to produce due to the availability of resources, small entrepreneurs can be trained to learn how this is done and establish small distribution centers for the public. It is also predicted that a biomass Egypt would also reduce the demand for fossil fuels, which has been highlighted as one of the major causes of electricity shutdowns in the country. As far as environmental aspect is concerned, it is predicted that Egypt would be able to benefit from biomass as it would use the wastes flooding the country’s streets, sewage and trash areas and convert it to biofuels. Producing biomass is also environmentally friendly. Scientific analysis would then be used to monitor how each provinces of Egypt is fairing with the use of biomass and if they have similar sources of biomass. Scientific analysis of available biomass resources in each province would determine how much biomass is required to power up or sustain the demand in the area as each Egyptian province or town is different from one another, especially on terrain and climate. Analysis would also involve production capacity if using a gas-powered generator or an alternative generator would produce more energy and less pollution.
Data showcasing that Egyptian biomass use has reduce the electricity deficiency and provided electricity in far flung areas would sustain the claim that biomass is beneficial for Egypt. The reduction of fossil fuel use, the removal of waste in the country’s streets and the reduction of pollution are also acceptable data that would support the claim. Aside from this, data that shows the capacity of biofuels to open new industries will also support the claim raised for this study. However, data revealing that biomass is not easily utilized by rural areas, the increase in electricity deficiency, increased pollution and high costs of production and use would refute the claim given by the project. Possible future issues that may be covered by this study would involve the political policies that aid or hinder initiatives for biomass production, as well as the social costs of using biomass.
Chakauya, E., G. Beyene and R.K. Chikwamba. "Food production needs fuel too: perspectives on the impact of biofuels in southern Africa." South African Journal of Science 105 (2009): 174-181. Print.
Farid, Doaa. "Fuel shortage to blame for electricity blackouts: Ministry of Electricity." 23 February 2014. Daily News Egypt. Web. 28 May 2014. <http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2014/02/23/fuel-shortage-blame-electricity-blackouts-ministry-electricity/>.
McKendry, Peter. "Energy production from biomass (part 1): overview of biomass." Bioresource Technology 83 (2002): 37-46. Print.
Nakhla, Dalia, Mohamed Hassan and Salah El Haggar. "Impact of biomass in Egypt on climate change." Natural Science 5.6 (2013): 678-684. Print.
Raslan, Rokia. "Empowering Egypt: Challenges." 13 May 2013. Carboun: Middle East Sustainable Cities. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://www.carboun.com/energy/empowering-egypt/>.
Sims, Ralph. The Brilliance of Bioenergy: In Business and in Practice. London: James & James Science Publishers, 2002. Print.