Evaluation of the acceptability, impact and feasibility of biogas digesters in rural Maphephetheni, KwaZulu-Natal.
Sibisi, Ncamisile Teressa.
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Biogas has the potential to provide energy to communities, especially those where grid electrification will not be installed for a long time and who experience problems in accessing energy resources. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether biogas technology could provide households and a school with an acceptable, affordable, efficient, and sustainable alternative energy resource, thereby providing opportunities for cost savings, reduction of the labour burden and income generation. Three case studies were selected, two households and Myeka High School in rural Maphephetheni. Maphephetheni is situated approximately 80 km west of Durban and is characterised by the lack of grid electrification. The two households selected as case studies were both using firewood and paraffin for thermal energy. Collection of firewood was a tiresome burden to women and paraffin was expensive to purchase. The third case study, Myeka High School was using solar energy and LP gas to support its energy needs. Biogas digesters were donated to the two households and the school. Data before and after installation of biogas was collected through questionnaires, informal interviews and observations. Monitoring and evaluation of the case studies was carried out. Results collected revealed that biogas was an acceptable source of energy because the household and school equipped with the floating dome biogas digesters accepted cooking on biogas while the household used the fertiliser from biogas on their crops. However it was not affordable both to the household and the school because in the household income did not allow for its purchase while savings on energy expenditure from both the school and household could not offset the cost in the six years estimated by the engineer but it would take 11 years. Biogas was found to be efficient and sustainable provided proper management was available. Although income generation opportunities were not fully utilised, there was an opportunity for income generation through the biogas provided there was encouragement, support and markets available. Recommendations are that government policy should provide for training of stakeholders on proper management techniques. Government or organisations involved with biogas energy could do this, as well as provide an extension service for the dissemination of biogas and other renewable energy information. However, government policy should as in other countries provide for subsidies, risk underwritten bank loans or tax incentives to manufacturers.
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