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Opportunities beckon in Germany for Namibian biomass industry

Opportunities beckon in Germany for Namibian biomass industry

Niël Terblanché

WITH an estimated 300 million tonnes of biomass in the form encroaching bush available for sustainable harvesting, Namibia can easily become a supplier of processed biomass products for the German energy market.
Germany has taken the political decision to stop burning coal to generate electricity and heat and thus opened the market for bush biomass from Namibia.
In this regard a Namibian delegation participated as a prospective partner country at this year’s Wood Energy Conference in Würzburg, Germany.
The congress themed “sustainable solutions for climate protection” is the national get-together of the German “biomass scene”. With 250 entrepreneurial participants it was the ideal opportunity for networking and business to business meetings. A dedicated programme on Namibia’s “big biomass opportunity” provided for key note presentations and information stalls.
“Germany has taken the political decision to stop burning coal. Bush biomass from Namibia clearly has the potential to play a role in the biomass import sector – competitiveness and sustainability of production and supply provided. Investment decisions are expected to be taken within the next 3 to 5 years,” said Matthias Held, Managing Director, German Wood Energy Association.

“Participating in this congress was a success for the Namibian biomass sector. We promoted the Namibian case and linked to relevant players in Germany,” Joseph Hailwa, Director of Forestry, Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry comments.
Participants explored options based on a two-fold and complementary approach: large-scale international off-take opportunities as well as technology solutions for application in Namibia.
More than 30 million hectares of range land are considered to be bush encroached in Namibia. It is estimated that 300 million tonnes of biomass are available for sustainable harvest within the scope of range land restoration.
During the conference the Namibian Biomass Industry Group (N-BiG) pointed out that currently only 1.36 million tonnes of bush biomass are utilised per year and that harvesting and logistic structures need to be up-scaled significantly to utilise the socio-economic and ecological benefits.
Biomass represents a potential pathway to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, there is an undersupply of biomass in Germany, which requires off-takers to source internationally.
“It has been very interesting to engage with the civil society initiative of “Exit Coal” (“Tschüss Kohle”) in Hamburg and with large energy utilities,” says Angus Middleton, Executive Director, Namibia Nature Foundation. “The meetings were tough, professional and serious. We now know what we have to do as “homework” for a next step.”
With regards to up-scaling technological solutions for application in Namibia, a number of processing options were discussed, including wood chip-based heating/cooling for residential areas and possibilities to combine solar and biomass technologies.
The delegation also explored options of cooperation with a sophisticated research and development network. It is envisioned to establish a Namibian Biomass Research Centre. Deliberations were held with a research institution of the German State of Baden Württemberg regarding options for scientific cooperation, with special emphasis on bio-economy, material research and knowledge transfer.
“The trip was extremely interesting. We can see immediate benefits particularly for the private sector delegates from N-BiG and NCA. We see great interest from potential German business and technology partners,” Ned Sibeya, Deputy Chief National Planning Commission said.
The delegation from Namibia comprised of government officials from the National Planning Commission, the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry and the Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and SME Development, experts on environmental issues, researchers and sector representatives from the Namibian Charcoal Association (NCA), the Walvis Bay Corridor Group and the Namibian Biomass Industry Group (N-BiG). The Namibian delegation’s visit was facilitated by the GIZ project on bush control and biomass utilisation (BCBU).
Delegation members complimented the international network comprised of GIZ, the Institute for Applied Material Flow Management (IfaS) of the Trier University and the Namibian Embassy Berlin for developing support structures for Namibian biomass.

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