Ethiopia
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National Cement factory embraces green energy from invasive weed

Pan Afric Energy, a company formed by a conglomerate of East Africa Holding (EAH), sets its eyes to embark on a multimillion dollar project on the way to process and provide prosopis juliflora, a thorny shrub, as a carbon-neutral alternative fuel source for cement industries that operate with the EAH and beyond.
The company which was established a few months back has already started the use of the dangerous tree that entered Ethiopia about a half a century ago for its pilot cement production at its National Cement plant in Dire Dawa, 510km east of Addis Ababa.
According to Batuel Bizuayehu, Senior Executive Director of EAH, the initiative comes with multiple benefits including; the replacement of coal use which is sourced both from local and imports, ensuring the use of green energy and ensuring corporate social responsibility at the lowland areas of Afar and Somali regions.
The thorny shrub bears aggressive invasive characters such as invading pastureland, irrigated cultivated land and irrigation canals causing an irreversible displacement of natural pasture grasses as well as native tree species.
Batuel told Capital that the project is expected to consume about USD 50 million that shall be backed by different financers.
“The main target of the company is using alternative energy for the cement industry, which typically consumes huge amount of energy, by using the tree. It shall replace up to 60 percent of the coal energy,” he said, adding, “It is a clear energy initiative and at the same time we shall clear the land for pastoralists and farmers in the two regions to use the land that is cleaned from the prosopis juliflora, which highly affects the livelihood of the communities.”
When the Ethiopian conglomerate designed the initiative, the European Union through the Ministry of Industry provided a three million euro funding to kick start the pilot project which already has commenced.
The EU fund has already contributed to buying spading machines and currently the machines have started spading the tree that is being transported to the processing facility at the cement factory in Dire Dawa.
“We have invested on the processing facility inside the cement factory and now we are using the tree as an alternative source of energy under the pilot level and so far we are covering five percent of the energy source from the green energy,” Batuel explained.
He said that the trees cover about two million hectares of land in the two regions which will go a long way as an energy alternative for the cement industry for a projected estimate of 50 years.

Officials at the company said that the proof of concept of the project is looking steady and that the transfer to full implementation will not only take place for the cement factory at Dire Dawa but also in the upcoming facility that is being constructed at Lemi town, North Shoa zone of Amhara region, 130km north of Addis Ababa.
According to the plan, besides the resource from Pan Afric for the full implementation, the company has started to mobilize funds including from the International Finance Corporation, the private sector financer wing of the World Bank, and finance from China.
The company has already accomplished its feasibility plan to enter to full scale operation in the near future.
The project to utilize prosopis juliflora charcoal as a carbon-neutral alternative fuel for cement factories will be also be included for other cement producers in the country.
National Cement, part of EAH, is one of the big players in the sector. With the partnership of West China International Holding it is undertaking aggressive expansion on cement production at Lemi, and Melka Jebdu, western outskirt of Dire Dawa.
Using prosopis juliflora as an alternative energy source has already been rolled out in some African countries.
According to a report by Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG), prosopis is one of the top 100 invasive plant species and it also characterized by vigorous growth which helps them to outcompete indigenous plant species to cover huge areas of land in a relatively short period of time.The tree is however not an indigenous plant for Ethiopia.
Different studies indicated that in Ethiopia, documentation is lacking regarding when, where, how, and by whom the alien invasive prosopis, which is popularly known as Woyane Zaf, was first introduced, but speculation do exists. The earliest time of notice is believed to be in the late 1970s in the eastern part of the country where India is cited as a probable source.
Before the start of using locally sourced coal, Ethiopia used to allocate up to USD 750 million to import the energy source. The figures have now fizzled to USD 300 million since some local coal suppliers joined the business.