• Kees Kibinda

Reppie: Ethiopia’s Waste to Electricity Converter

Updated: Feb 18, 2019

Addis Ababa is a city that faces numerous challenges. It struggles with its explosive population growth, an electricity demand that far surpasses its supply, a growing landfill and polution. The city's government has come up with a plan; namely, a plant called Reppie that will convert waste to electricity. As a result, the above mentioned challenges are tackled at the same time.

Normally waste has a negative connotation to it. However, Ethiopia has managed to do something positive with theirs and that is what this article is all about. For those of us that grew up on the continent, it is a well-known fact that waste management is not in our repertoire. This is the case for the entire continent, except perhaps Rwanda.

Some things we can recycle. For example, using plastic bags to make our own footballs. Preferably Shoprite plastic bags or those big Rambo bags that were especially famous and in demand in the 90s but are somehow still easily found to be in use till this very day. Some people are building houses with used plastic bottles as bricks. Iron sheets are used to build ramshackle houses or worn out slippers are used as floaters when fishing.

However, most of the waste gets dumped and this is both a problem in terms of space congestion as well as being detrimental to the environment. Ethiopia has managed to find a way to tackle both problems in addition to the problem of electricity not meeting demand. They are killing three birds with one stone.

I have written another article on another project that Ethiopia is working on to generate more electricity as well and you can read it by clicking here.

For about 50 years, the Koshe dumpsite has been the only official landfill in Addis Ababa. Because the city has expanded; the landfill that used to be on the outskirts of the city, crept closer and is now part of the urban landscape sprawling over an area the size of 36 football pitches. This attracts hordes of waste pickers who make their living from salvaged trash.

Earlier in 2017, a landslide on the dumpsite killed 114 people, prompting the government to declare 3 days of mourning. To come with a solution to the problem, the Ethiopian government teamed up with the likes of the Ethiopian Electrical Power Corporation, together with Cambridge Industries as well as China National Electrical Engineering and Ramboll, a Danish engineering firm in a deal that is reportedly worth 120 million USD.

The building started in 2014 and finished around the end of 2017/beginning of 2018. The power plant is called Reppie and will incinerate 1400 tons of waste every day. This represents roughly 80% of the city’s waste generation. The plant will also supply the people with 30% of the household electricity needs, which means that it contributes around 185 gigawatt hours of electricity per annum. This electricity production will be transported to the country’s national grid. It will be enough to cover between 25-30% of Addis Ababa’s households.

Rubbish from the landfill will be incinerated in a combustion chamber. The heat that is produced from that will be used to boil water until that water turns into steam. That steam will proceed to drive a turbine; generating electricity.

Like its European counterparts, the Reppie plant operates within the strict emission limits of the European Union. The plant adopts modern backend gas treatment technology to drastically reduce the release of heavy metals and toxins produced from the burning process.

This type of waste management also prevents the release of toxic chemicals into ground water as well as reduces the release of methane; a potent greenhouse gas generated in landfills into the atmosphere. The space creation as a result of reducing this massive landfill is the icing on the cake for a city that is grappling with finding a solution to generating more land for its imminent expansion.

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