As the largest cocoa producer in the world, Côte d’Ivoire has tremendous potential to capitalize on abundant cocoa waste to meet a growing energy demand, and earlier this month, the country kicked off a project to do exactly that. With support from the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), the Ivorian company Société des Energies Nouvelles (SODEN) is pursuing plans to build a 60 to 70 MW grid-connected, cocoa biomass-to-energy plant in Divo, one of the densest cocoa-growing regions in the country.
The Divo Cocoa Biomass Project will be the world’s first biomass power generation plant running on waste from cocoa pods. In addition to expanding the country’s energy mix, the project will reduce waste and provide local farmers and cocoa producers with a new stream of revenue.
“I would like to move ahead quickly with the Divo Cocoa Biomass Project,” said Ogou Yapi, Managing Director of SODEN, “and [USTDA’s] grant will help to do that. This is just the beginning – I see [the Divo Project] as the first of many biomass projects here. This project will provide jobs, additional opportunities for cocoa farmers and the cocoa economy, and it will contribute to energy security in Côte-d’Ivoire, while helping us reach our goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 28% set at COP21 in Paris.”
Producing over 30 percent of global cocoa, Côte d’Ivoire also creates millions of tons of cocoa pod waste each year, with 94 percent of the pod weight remaining as waste after the seeds are harvested – waste that can foster mold and diseases posing a sanitary threat to agricultural production and laborers. As a result, cocoa pods are currently burned or dumped away from cultivation sites, representing a major source of lost potential resources that could be used to meet the country’s growing energy demand.
In addition to supporting the Ivorian economy, the Divo Cocoa Biomass Project will also support U.S. jobs and exports. SODEN has selected Recast Energy LLC of Richmond, Virginia, a company with biomass expertise, to carry out the feasibility study. Thomas R. Hardy, USTDA’s Director of Congressional and Public Affairs said, “The Ivorian economy is strong and growing, and we look forward to supporting this growth, while helping U.S. companies enter this dynamic market.”
Pursuing mutually beneficial results such as this represents USTDA’s unique mission. As the U.S. government’s project preparation agency, USTDA connects U.S. businesses to export opportunities by funding project preparation and partnership building activities that advance sustainable infrastructure and foster economic growth in partner countries. On the African continent, much of USTDA’s work supports the U.S. government’s Power Africa initiative, which aims to increase energy access and reliability across the continent by bringing together a range of public sector tools to attract investment in Africa’s energy sector.
The Divo Cocoa Biomass Project will help Côte d’Ivoire meet its goal of generating 434 megawatts of electricity from biomass by 2030. As an exporter of energy to neighboring countries, Côte d’Ivoire plans to extend its grid to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone this year. Relying solely on domestic waste, the project will support energy independence in Côte d’Ivoire and reduce the need to import expensive fossil fuels.
On a recent visit to the country with the President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa, Mr. Hardy signed the grant in July 2018.
The feasibility study for the Project will soon be underway, and SODEN will be looking for financing late next year. The plan is to have the plant up and running by late 2020 – the first of hopefully a number of cocoa waste-to-energy plants across Côte d’Ivoire.