The European Union Delegation in Eswatini yesterday led a team comprising journalists, climate change activists and university students on an educational tour of Ubombo Sugar Limited’s power co-generation plant, in Big Bend.
This was at the tail end of the EU Climate Diplomacy Weeks 2022. The EU Climate Diplomacy Weeks initiative is held between September and October. It is part of the global campaign aimed at fostering cooperation and inspiring real action for the climate across the world.
“The EU is a huge supporter of green energy, and we were delighted to be part of today’s educational tour of the co-generation plant at Ubombo Sugar Limited (USL),” said Robert Adam, the EU Deputy Head of Delegation.
“Ubombo are the pioneers in clean energy in Eswatini, showing that the country has a great opportunity to embrace and harness renewable energy. Eswatini has ideal climatic conditions to leverage renewables as well as supporting a cleaner environment,” Adam said.
“Worth mentioning is that Europe is fast transitioning to renewables, not only in support of the targets for clean energy by 2030, but also due to the Russian aggression on Ukraine consequences.”
Meanwhile, Conan Seyama, the Co-generation Manager led the tour of the co-generation plant.
Seyama explained that USL is among the first companies in Eswatini to engage in biomass energy production.
“We are the first independent power producer in the country to supply power using bio renewable resources to the national grid on a commercial basis,” Seyama said.
“This E1,2 billion co-generation plant allows us to produce sufficient co-generated electricity from renewable resources to cater for our own operations and export power to the Eswatini national grid on a commercial basis.”
Seyama added that currently, USL produces about 165-gigawatt hours (GWh) of
electricity annually of which about 60 GWh is supplied to the Eswatini Electricity Company.
Speaking in an earlier interview USL Managing Director Muzi B. Siyaya explained that energy efficiency projects and power co-generation were part of their business strategy not only to drive efficiencies and diversification in the business, but also
as a direct contribution to the country’s efforts to achieve energy security.
He said USL had first mover advantage in biomass energy production in the
country, so the company was ready to assist by leveraging the experience it has accumulated over the years in running the existing co-generation business,” Siyaya said.
Under the theme ‘Green and Blue for our Climate’, the EU Climate Diplomacy Week 2022 covers three thematic areas, namely clean energy transition; nature and biodiversity protection; sustainable cities and circular economy – with a focus on the role of young people in building a greener future.
The EU team that formed part of the educational tour comprised Adam,
Jenny Brown, Project Officer, and Luisa Hansi.
The tour was conducted in collaboration with Yibutse Green Action led by Executive Director Musa Ndlangamandla and Projects Coordinator Thembeka Dlamini.
“Climate change is the most important factor and problem for current and future generations,” Dlamini said.
“After the devastation left by the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important to take stock and try to improve not just our health, but our living conditions and this can only be done through recognising that something has to give. It will either be detrimental to the environment which is equally detrimental to the inhabitants.”
“So positive action has to be harnessed. What better way than to rope in the future, the youth. Instilling a passion for making a difference starts with education on the importance of sustainability and how renewable energy drives the future energy requirements.”
One of the delegates Gcinile Ndzinisa, an environmental activist said: “It was a great opportunity for me to be able to tour the Ubombo Power Co-generation Plant.”
Ndzinisa said it was heartening to note that at a time when the country, and the region are faced with serious power shortages, resulting in loadshedding, Ubombo was providing a lasting solution regarding energy security for Eswatini.
“The cherry on top is that this is green energy which is friendly to the environment.”
Before travelling to Big Bend the delegation visited Guba Permaculture Education Centre, in Malkerns.
Established in 2009, Guba promotes permaculture which is steeped in designing low carbon, highly productive human and environmental systems.
The team was taken on a guided tour by Bonginkhosi Mndzebele. Guba is an off-grid, self-sustaining community.
“I appreciate the opportunity provided by the EU for my colleagues and I to take a tour of Guba. I got a lot of knowledge and an understanding that it is possible to have self-sufficient and environmentally friendly places here in Eswatini,” said Valencia Fakudze, a green champion and member of Hlumisa Eswatini, an environmental movement.
“Today’s educational tour has helped us as students to develop our academic, careers and at a personal level,” says Hlengiwe Pateguana, who is studying at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology.
“At the co-generation plant in Ubombo we were able to see and experience what we learn in class. This helps reinforce the lessons and expand our knowledge on the issues of energy efficiency, climate change, and accelerating renewables,” she said.
“We thank the EU team and Ubombo for giving us such a wonderful experience.”
In another matter, Nokwanda Simelane, an agriculture student at UNESWA, echoed Pateguana saying not only was the tour fun and a hugely memorable time for the participants, but it presented opportunities the students, green champions, and journalists to expand their own individual tacit knowledge which is crucial to making sustainable living choices regarding energy efficiency, and creating a climate-smart future.
In an interview, Brown said the tour of Guba was extremely inspirational.
“If a small community can be self-sustaining living off the grid, imagine all the possibilities that exist for emaSwati regarding sustainable living.”