By Bahle Gama
Ubombo Sugar Limited is looking into diversifying by increasing electricity production in the country’s national grid.
Currently, the company is contributing 10 per cent. The company whose 60 per cent stake is owned by Illovo and 40 per cent by Tibiyo TakaNgwane was the first independent power producer in the country to supply power using bio-renewable resources to the national grid on a commercial basis.
On average, the company produces 165 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity annually, and about 60 GWh is supplied to the Eswatini Electricity Company (EEC).
During a media breakfast meeting held at the Mountain View HotelInn, Ubombo’s Head of Corporate Leornard Ndzimandze said the company is having talks with the regulator, Eswatini Energy Regulatory Authority (ESERA), and the government because everyone is aware of the
role Ubombo Sugar is playing in addressing the energy problem in the country.
“We are pushing for diversification and are looking to expand, and we are definitely chasing the 2025 deadline. We are helping the government because we are aware that alone, the government cannot achieve this, therefore there is a big part that we believe we can play as a business in
addressing the electricity shortage,” he said.
Ndzimandze stated that the 10 per cent currently being produced is huge and “believe it or not and we are looking at pushing it up as much as we can to get to a level where Eswatini can be self-sustainable.”
He further stated that many could copy from the company because it is already playing the space adding that it is not like new technology or something complicated, so scaling up is already in the pipeline.
“So, we have already presented a paper to our stakeholders on how and what to do, we have submitted our bid to the regulator. Everyone is working towards the 2025 deadline,” he said.
He further stated that to achieve this goal, the company will rope in new players for collaboration, adding that whatever will be received from the regulator, the company has to position itself to invest to do whatever is possible.
“There are some limiting factors, one of them in terms of resources is equity, and the renewable energy in terms of how much biomass we have in the country,” he said.
He stated that the bulk of biomass requires calculations to be made on how much is available in the country, which will then determine how much can be produced in Eswatini.
Hydro and Solar Power
“This is just a core element because electricity production is diverse, we then have to talk to solar and other sources like hydro. There are different technologies out there, so it won’t be just focusing on producing electricity using biomass, but also hydro and solar. There are more of the solar plants that will be planted countrywide to ensure that we do not rely on biomass for electricity production,” he added.
In response to how much the company is looking to add to what it currently produces, Ndzimandze stated that they were unsure but were content that there will be an increase by 2025.
In terms of using biomass, Ndzimandze stated that for years, Ubombo had been burning coal like crazy and after observing the damage it caused, they decided to change.
“From 10 years ago, we were very deliberate in halting the burning of coal, so when we expanded our factory in 2010, we were able to put in boilers that are using renewable fuel and that is what we have been pushing and will continue doing that going forward. This is one way of ensuring that we remain sustainable because we are very much aware that if you don’t take care of the environment, the business will collapse,” he said.