Project Gaia named one of Africa’s top projects for 2009

Alternative Energy Africa magazine took reader nominations for the best African renewable energy projects for the past year. The year 2009 saw the continent gaining momentum in the sector and many large-scale projects were announced or moved forward. Here we highlight a few of the lesser known, smaller projects that had a tangible impact.

Project Gaia, Ethiopia

While more than 90% of Ethiopia depends on biomass for household energy supplies, Project Gaia launched a pilot testing of the CleanCook stove in the east African country in 2004. The pilot study introduced 850 CleanCook stoves and ethanol for testing in various sites around Ethiopia, including private households of varying income levels in Addis baba, UNCHR refugee camps, and other institutional settings.

The project is attempting to harness the wasted or underutilized biomass and hydrocarbon resources and direct these into alcohol production for daily household use such as cooking. The CleanCook stove decreases carbon emissions while being fueled by methanol or ethanol without producing soot, outperforming the kerosene wick stove. Those producing in the pilot project have reported a decrease in symptoms from asthma, burning and itching eyes, irritated nose and throat, and coughing previous brought on by pollutants emitted by traditional stoves.

Between December 2008 and November 2009, Gaia moved from the research phase of the project to the implementation phase, rapidly scaling up stove production in Kebribeyah and Awbarre Somali refugee camps. During this year, Gaia reached full family coverage in the Kebribeyah camp and partial family coverage (40%) in Awbarre camp. A total of 2,550 stoves were in use in the refugee camps. In Addis Ababa, a 150-stove pilot study was carried out to determine the acceptability of ethanol as a cooking fuel for families living in low-income condominium housing while also creating an estimated 50 new jobs for the local market.

Gaia Association’s projects are two-pronged including commercializations—working with a local business partner to commercialize the stoves and ethanol fuel in the local market—and humanitarian assistance. Funding of the projects came from a variety of other sources like its sister organization, Project Gaia, Inc., the Lutheran World Federation, and individual donations. The organization also receives grant money awards by Ashden Award for Sustainable Energy (2008), Energy Globe Award (March 2009), and USEPA Commercialization Grant for Addis Ababa projects.

In the future, Project Gaia hopes to expand into utilizing alcohol production for refrigeration, heating, lighting, and generating electricity. Currently, Project Gaia is using a microdistillery concept in Ethiopia and Nigeria. In addition, pilot studies are also being conducted in various refugee camps within Ethiopia (Eritrean, Somali, and Sudanese refugees). Other pilot tests have been conducted in Brazil, South Africa and Malawi, and there is currently and ongoing study in Madagascar.

—Alternative Energy Africa Magazine
March / April, 2010