Minister of Energy Mathews Nkhuwa says the biofuel sector is a tool for increasing fuel supply in the country.
Speaking during the Surya Biofuels Limited launch of 99.9 percent Fuel Grade in Katuba yesterday, Mr Nkhuwa said Surya energy project is in line with government policy of promoting production and use of biofuels.
Mr Nkhuwa said the investment has come about as a result of the enabling environment that the government has created for private sector investment.
He stated that government believes that the private sector can be an engine and important partner for economic development.
He applauded the investment by Surya Energy which has led to the production of 99.9 percent Fuel Grade Ethanol within Zambia.
Zambia consumes about 474,500,000 (million) litres of unleaded gasoline (petrol) per annum.
“From this level of consumption, 10 percent bioethanol per annum would be required to meet the existing demand. In monetary terms, it means that government would be saving about 40.6 million United States Dollars annually in foreign exchange from the importation of petrol,” he said.
As Surya Energy is only able to produce about 5,475,000 liters of ethanol per annum, the minister noted that this will leave a deficit of 41,975,000 liters towards attainment of the 10 percent bioethanol blending ratio.
Mr Nkhuwa added that the Ministry of Energy carried out a national assessment on bioenergy and food security which indicated that Zambia has enough feedstock for sustainable ethanol blending.
The Minister implored Surya and other stakeholders to join hands and expand investment in the biofuel sector to meet the projected demand for bioethanol.
Mr Nkhuwa called upon the private sector, particularly those in the agriculture sub-sector to rise to the challenges of providing the feedstock needed for sustainability of the plant’s operations.
Government recently revised the National Energy Policy to include biofuels in the energy mix and has also set ambitious targets such as the 10 percent fuel blending ratios aimed at scaling up the contribution of biofuel to the country’s energy needs.
And Surya Biofuels Limited Chairman Kalpesh Patel said the purpose of establishing the plant is to meet the increasing demands for sustainable fuels.
Mr Patel said Surya Biofuels will provide efficient and effective environmentally friendly Biofuels through an advanced technological innovation.
Stressing that Surya Biofuels Limited is the first company to produce fuel ethanol in Zambia, the Firm’s chairman said the development will help reduce government’s costs of importing fuel because fuel will be blended locally and thus affordable.
“Once the fuel is on the market, the people of Zambia will be rest assured that this product will sustain the fuel supply in Zambia,” he said.
The company which will be generating 2.5 megawatts of electricity, is currently producing about 180Kv of power which is being used to run the plant.
Mr Patel highlighted that his company will support the agriculture industry by purchasing 350 metric tons of cassava, daily an activity that will support small scale farmers hence alleviate poverty and hunger.
“To foster the availability of Cassava, the company will partner with stakeholders like Musika, the Zambian Agricultural Research Institute (ZARI) and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to identify and provide us with cassava seeds to plant on 6000 hectares of land,” he said.
The company currently has about 100 Zambian employees working on site and will provide more employment opportunities to the local people once fully operational.
Meanwhile, Central Province Minister Sydney Mushanga said the plant will not only provide director jobs for Zambians but also a market for agricultural produce which can be used as inputs in the production of biofuels.
Mr Mushanga said the project has the potential to create new indirect employment opportunities and will serve as a source of income to small scale farmers especially in the rural areas.
“ I am pleased that such a big investment has been established in Central Province as it will benefit many people from there, “ he said
He encouraged the local people to take advantage of the opportunity and venture into cassava growing as it a ready market provided by the plant.
Surya Biofuels Limited was established in August 2016 and its main product was ethanol, organic fertilizer, hand sanitizer, animal feed, power generation and coal ash as by products.
Among other notable figures at the event included Chieftainess Mungule and Chief Liteta.