A new project is being implemented in Albania by United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) aiming to transform the market for using organic waste from the olive oil and other industries for energy production.

Turning olive oil into light? Albanians have witnessed it lots of time ago, well, in a primitive way. An oil filled lamp with a fiber wick immersed within so you can light up to have a warm glow light bulb. The olive oil for energy use is back. Not as a return to the past but as a projection into the future, using the waste from the olive oil for energy production.Turning waste into energy has become an attractive method for dealing with solid waste treatment, because the process enables waste use for energy recovery.

UNIDO is currently implementing a Global Environmental Facility (GEF) funded project in Albania, entitled “Biomass energy for productive use for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the olive oil sector,” which engages private sector SMEs and the Albanian finance sector in investments in innovative and environmentally friendly energy technologies.

Exclusively for agroweb the new project details are explained by Mr. Mark Draeck, Industrial Development Officer at the Renewable Energy Unit, UNIDO Headquarters in Vienna, acting also as Project Manager to Albania.

Mr. Mark Draeck presenting the project activities in Tirana

“The project aims to transform the market for using organic waste from the olive oil and other industries for energy production. It aims to achieve this through triggering investments in state-of-the-art conversion technologies for organic waste streamsfrom industry, starting with the olive oil sector. The most concrete part of the project will be to demonstrate these technologies in existing enterprises, to make stakeholders see and believe that the innovation of these technologies can bring financial benefits and business opportunities to their enterprise”, says Mr. Draeck.

Agribusinesses' benefits

UNIDO’s Project Manager clarifies that the project will provide a variety of technical cooperation activities to assist Albanian agribusinesses. A grant program will be launched to support farmers and agribusinesses applying for financing the specific technology investment that turns waste into energy.

To enable such transformation, appropriate financial instruments will be put in place, capacity-building initiatives will be organized as well and the policy and regulatory environment will be refined where required in order to trigger replication in other agricultural subsectors.

“Setting up the market environment that allows and promotes the use and replication of such technologies will lead to significant GHG emission reductions and help Albania in its transformation towards low carbon development”, says Mr.Draeck.

Over a period of 3 years, the project aims to deploy an indicative number of 15 demonstration projects, and minimally an equal number of replicated projects with conversion technologies for organic waste. For the 15 demonstration projects this results in total direct emission reductions of 53,000 tones of CO2 equivalent over the lifetime of the investments, and for the 30 replication projects this results in double this figure.

Renewable energy as foreign investment attraction to generate new jobs

Evaluating the great importance of the agriculture sector inthe Albanian economy, Mr. Draeck highlights the electricity dependence from hydrologic conditions. “The main fuels are oil-derived products with a share of 29.55%, followed by electricity with 25.98% and fuel wood with a 10.89% share. Over 95% of electricity generation and 20-23% of total primary energy sources are provided by hydro. The country’s reliance on hydropower makes it vulnerable to changes in hydrologic conditions, as witnessed during periods of drought and this has reduced the electricity security of supply. In addition Albania has considerable imports of energy, which vary – depending on yearly conditions - between 30 and 60% of total primary energy sources.

Renewable energy in general and modern industrial biomass in particular can be a solution for reducing this dependence on imports and can improve not only security of energy supply but also the country’s economic and political macro security by decreasing the country’s budget deficit. Finally, the development of renewable energy projects attracts foreign investment and can generate new jobs for Albania.

Albania’s great potential versus low modern technology penetration

“Albania has significant potential for clean and renewable energy, although relevant bio-energy conversion technologies are known and available worldwide and in neighboring countries, their reach has so far not penetrated Albanian SME sectors”, says Mr.Draeck.

“There is real scope for Albania’s olive oil industry to gain experience from experienced countries like Greece, Turkey and Italy where significant proportions of waste is used for energy. In addition Albania could replicate the use of waste in the Republic of Croatia, which has a clear action plan. When such an integral policy package is properly rolled out, olive residues and other available waste streams can become a significant source or renewable energy production.”

Mr. Mark Draeck visiting the olive oil enterprise "Tre Miqte" in Ndroq region

How will these practices be implemented in Albania through the support of UNIDO’s project

The overall objective of the project is to increase the use of biomass in industrial energy consumption for productive use through demonstrated use of modern biomass technologies in SMEs in the olive oil industry.

The main national benefits are expected to be:
• Reduced costs for enterprises through reduced energy costs when meeting part of its own demand, and by increased revenue through the sale of excess energy (in the form of power, pellets, briquettes etc)
• Enhanced employment opportunities and development of the country’s SME sector in the utilization of olive (and others) pomace biomass for energy purposes, and
• Enhanced product quality
• Economic costs savings at the national level and reduced dependency and expenditures on imported energy
• Reduced load on the power system reducing the imbalance between the supply and demand especially during the peak periods
• Reduced greenhouse gas emissions

In practical terms the project will be executed in close cooperation with ARDA, as ARDA has the relevant mandate, links and expertise to work with the agricultural sector. The project will be implemented under the strategic guidance of relevant ministries, most notably Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Energy and Industry.

The future of Albanian agriculture in the perspective of the climate change

The agricultural sector itself is also facing challenges from climate change, particularly due to climate change impacts on the sector. These problems are related to flooding in some areas and the need for irrigation in other areas. Appropriate measures to manage these challenges caused by climate change should be constantly highly regarded by concerned institutions.

“It is essential for the sector to meet international standards in order to increase its competitiveness on global markets. A typical farmer in Albania lacks the incentives to expand production and to invest in new and better technologies. Therefore, exploring the agriculture development potential based on innovation and entrepreneurship can increase productivity and specialization, and this will lead to a longer and sustainable activity of Albania’s agribusinesses”, says Mr. Draeck.

The general trend towards more intensive and industrialized agriculture has a deep impact on the environment. Simultaneously, agriculture has a significant potential in the production of biofuels and renewable energy but the available biomass waste from agriculture is typically not or inefficiently valorized and is usually destroyed on the spot and this has quite a large environmental impact due to the production of highly polluted waste.

The green industry concept, with its focus on the elimination or significant reduction of the dependence on fossil fuels, toxins, and equipment and processes that generate greenhouse gases, is one of the adequate answers that UNIDO has developed and promotes in its global forum and technical cooperation activities.

Under the Climate Change Adaptation focal area, UNIDO’s Agri-Business Development Branch aims to assist countries in increasing the resilience and reducing post-harvest losses in agribusiness value and supply chains which will make a vital contribution to adapting to the impacts of increasing weather variability, frequency of extreme events and longer term predicted climate changes, which in most cases are already reducing crop yields and increasing yield variability.

Albania and the near future of green industry concept

In recent decades Albania’s environmental situation has increasingly deteriorated, because of at times insufficient attention for environmental issues or optimal planning, as for instance in the case of infrastructure development. Increasing demand for natural resources, deforestation, land use, rapid urbanization, increasing number of motor vehicles, lack of investment in waste management infrastructure, insufficient enforcement procedures and limited institutional and administrative capacity, insufficient human and financial resources, all led to environmental degradation and making the country more vulnerable to climate change.

A final remark from UNIDO’s Project Manager; “These challenges confront governments and support institutions that have to make fundamental changes in policies, strategies, work-force skills and organizational linkages to respond to developments in the world markets and to promote sustainable and inclusive development by protecting the environment.”