The prize was presented by HRH Prince Carl Philip of Sweden at the World Bioenergy international conference and trade fair held on 3-5 June at Elmia in Jönköping, Sweden.
“With this year’s prize you can see how bioenergy investment can make a big difference in a poor country,” said Heinz Kopetz, president of the World Bioenergy Association, which sponsors the prize.
The jury’s decision also shows that bioenergy has left the stage of being a subsidised activity and is now a commercial alternative to fossil fuel. While Jörgen Sandström is one of the original driving forces behind Addax Bioenergy. Addax Bioenergy is a subsidiary of private investment group AOG, which has big interests in the oil and gas industry.
“The group has operations in 16 African countries and covers the entire chain from extraction to distribution,” said the prize-winner.
The concept was born eight years ago in discussions between three people in a café in Geneva. They had an oil company perspective and agreed that biofuel is an increasingly important form of energy. The market is growing and creating business opportunities. Their decision to invest in Sierra Leone was based on strictly commercial grounds.
Eight development banks have funded the project, which has cost about 400 million euro. In spring 2014 the plant began producing ethanol and electricity from sugar cane. The initial capacity is 85,000 cubic metres of ethanol and 32 MW of electricity.
“From a European perspective, 32 MW is not much but it is adding 20 percent to the electricity production in Sierra Leone,” Sandström said.
The project complies with the world’s highest social and environmental standards, including the African Development Bank’s safeguards policies, the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) performance standards, the EU renewable energy environmental and social sustainability criteria, and those of the Roundtable for Sustainable Biomaterials. The Addax Bioenergy project is the first biofuels entity on the African continent that has earned sustainability certification from the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB), demonstrating that the project complies with ambitious yet practical safeguards, including the protection of natural or rare ecosystems, food security, human rights to land, water and decent working conditions, and the management of water resources.
Addax Bioenergy and its owner regard the investment as the first stage of further investment in bioenergy. Large resources are being invested in creating benefit for the local community and the country. The company rents the land for growing the sugar cane and, among other measures, has trained 2,500 farmers in more efficient food production methods.
“We’re already seeing the effects in the form of increased school attendance, less unemployment and a better standard of living,” said Jörgen Sandström, who concluded his acceptance speech by saying:
“Many thanks for believing in Africa!”
Five worthy finalists
The aim of the World Bioenergy Award is to draw attention to an individual who has contributed to the development of the bioenergy sector.
The award has been presented twice before. This year the decision lay between five finalists. Each of them would have been a worthy winner but the jury decided to single out the good example from Africa. In 2010 the award went to the Brazilian researcher Laercio Couto and in 2012 to Harry Stokes from the USA.
Some words from the five finalists
Anthony Bridgwater, UK
“Biofuel is renewable fuels that at the same time give the world food and have the potential to be a major source of energy.”
Clyde Stearns, USA
“If bioenergy is to develop to its full potential we must give the market a clear message and find ways to deliver it throughout the world.”
Jörgen Sandström, Sweden
“Bioenergy should be able to compete with fossil fuels without subsidies. The entire industry must meet high-set social, environmental and economic demands.”
Joaquín Reina Hernández, Spain
“The future of bioenergy is very interesting and full of promise.”
Richard Sulman, Australia
“The need for renewable fuels continues to grow globally as the population increases. The future of bioenergy is strong and the market will continue to grow."