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Biomass Energy

Introduction and Background

The Working for Energy is part of the Working for Programmes under the Expanded Public Works Programme borne out of the processes of the Working for Water Programme. The mandate of the Working for Energy Programme has been extended by the mandate of the Department of Energy under the provisions of the Energy Act in terms of the mandate of SANEDI. The mandate of the Working for Energy covers the following areas amongst others:

  • Biomass to energy (biogas, wood gas, firewood, etc.)
  • Waste to energy
  • Solar PV
  • Solar Water Heating
  • Micro Wind
  • Micro hydro
  • Micro Grids
  • Algae


The Concept of Biomass to Energy is still at its infancy in South Africa but holds promise for the future sustainable development.  Biomass is generally regarded as any carbon based material such as animal (including human) waste, plant material, food waste, algae, industrial waste such as reclaimed woody material such as planks, etc.  which when processed can produce organic fuels.

Sources of biomass are waste water treatment plants, landfill sites, pulp and paper industries, wood mills and furniture industries, horticulture centres, abattoirs, animal ranches, grasses, trees, invasive and alien species to mention but a few. 

  • The agricultural industry especially the meat production industry produces animal waste which has environmental impacts if not processes and managed accordingly.
  • The sugar industry is producing bagasse which is not adequately used as alternative fuel, etc
  • The agricultural industry produces plant (grains, fruit and vegetables) o waste which has environmental impacts if not processes and managed accordingly
  • The Working for Water Programme is producing biomass for which there seem to be limited economic applications for its safe disposal;
  • The municipal sewerage water treatments plants are not adequately realising the opportunities of decomposing biomass at sewerage treatments plants
  • Municipalities are grappling with the absence of suitable land for new landfill waste
  • The food industry is grappling with food waste which if not handled accordingly can be a health hazard
  • The pulp and paper industry is producing excessive bio waste which is ready for use or processing into alternative fuels. 



The objective of the Working for Energy Programme is to look at the sustainable acquisition, processing and use of biomass to produce various forms energy for various application.  In this regard possible energy forms are biogas from bio-digestion, wood gas from gasification, straight biomass incineration as firewood, biomass pellets or charcoal.
Applications of bioenergy are heating (cooking, water heating, space heating, industrial heating for processing, electricity generation, transportation fuel, chemical industry (petrochemical industries, etc.)

Legislative framework

There is currently no specific comprehensive legislative framework that governs the waste to energy sector, save for individual pieces of legislation dealing with aspects of the waste to energy sector in a piecemeal type of manner. Typically:

  • NEMA
  • Clean Air/ Air quality
  • Energy Act
  • Green Economy Strategy;
  • Water Act
  • Electricity Act
  • Electricity regulation Act



To demonstrate:

  • the use of waste to energy concepts and their potential roles in the energy sector.
  • the positive impacts of integrating waste management and renewable energy provision.
  • job creation, skills development and poverty alleviation options associated with waste to energy.

Performance indicators

  • Amount of energy produced from waste resources
  • Environmental benefits of biomass not decomposing freely and causing fire hazards in the working foe water areas.
  • Number of green jobs created
  • Revenue generated from biomass related enterprises
  • Tons of GHG saved


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