Profit-making idea: Waste-to-energy for powering industries in Ghana

More than 12,000 tonnes of solid waste is generated in Ghana daily, of which just 10% goes through a waste management system. Estimates are that about 3,000 tonnes per day are produced in Accra, the capital city, alone.

This challenge can become an opportunity, says Kofi Nketsia-Tabiri, founder and CEO of XpressGas, a liquefied petroleum gas distributor in the country. He believes the time is right for investors interested in waste-to-energy to enter the market.

Before launching XpressGas in 2010, Nketsia-Tabiri worked as an energy and business development consultant for almost a decade. He also managed the investment portfolios for 16 African countries for clean energy investment fund, E+Co. “With the perennial challenges we have with power, waste-to-energy makes business sense if you can find the right investments to unleash the potential locked up there,” he explains.

Some studies have found that waste-to-energy projects in the past had to overcome certain hurdles, including a lack of government support and a policy framework. However, with the ground broken on a €6 million waste-to-energy conversion plant in the Ashanti region, this may be changing.

Nketsia-Tabiri suggests a larger off-site energy generation set-up as opposed to a model where individual homes use their waste to generate energy. For this, he adds, it will be better if the producer has a dedicated off-taker. “If I was developing the model, I would focus on industries such as mines or manufacturing enterprises that cannot cope with the inconsistency in power supply, perhaps in the greater Accra area. Find a client that will sign a power purchase agreement with you.”

Nketsia-Tabiri says the biggest barrier to entry would be the upfront set-up costs to be able to first separate the waste and then to process it into energy.

“There is demand, though. Enterprises and factories need these solutions because the national grid is just not reliable.”