The sugarcane plant is one of the world's most cost-effective and diversified
renewable resources, offering many alternatives for production of food,
feed, fibre, and energy. Owing to climatic factors, sugarcane is found
predominantly in the developing world and as such represents a valuable
tool in the simultaneous search for sustainable energy sources and new
development alternatives. Sugarcane resources support a variety of uses
and products in the energy, industrial, and agricultural sectors, based
on different resource streams: sugars, molasses/juice, and crop residues
(Figure 1). Cogenerated electricity and ethanol are among the most important
cane co-products in commercial terms, but there are many others as well.
1: Sugarcane Resource
The sugar industry has faced increasing competitive pressures in recent
years, due to factors such as saturated demand in industrialised countries,
competition from other sweeteners, and low and/or fluctuating sugar
prices. These difficulties have increased economic incentives for
sugar producers to diversify their product portfolio by investing
in renewable energy applications. Diversification of sugar companies
into renewable energy has been slowed by institutional barriers and
by continued price supports for sugar production around the world.
New markets can emerge through public-private cooperation in modernising
the cane resource base.
The current cane resource base in southern Africa countries is over
50 million tonnes of cane per year. The installation of modern cogeneration
systems could translate this cane resource into over 600 GWh of electricity.
If this cane were used as a direct feedstock for ethanol production,
it could result in 4 billion litres of ethanol. Furthermore, a variety
of other products could be developed, with production levels tailored
to the different markets that emerge. Although not large by world
standards, these amounts are large by African standards, and they
represent a significant expansion of the domestic resource base. With
additional efficiency measures at sugar factories, ethanol distilleries,
and other sectors or components, the contribution could be much higher.
The Cane Resources Network for Southern Africa (CARENSA) will critically
assess the role of bio-energy from sugarcane in promoting sustainable
development and improving global competitiveness in the region of
southern Africa. The main objective of CARENSA is a comprehensive
synthesis and comparative evaluation of the utilisation of cane resources
in the region, including organisational and institutional dimensions
as well as technical features and socio-economic and environmental
impacts. Specific objectives of the network include:
- Comparison of current and potential levels of sugarcane resource
utilisation in southern Africa nations
- Development of performance benchmarks for agricultural and
industrial parameters and system benchmarks for key inputs (e.g. water,
- Illustrate key linkages across the five institutional phases:
agriculture, industry, markets, impacts, integration
- Promote diversified multi-purpose production strategies to
enhance regional competitiveness
- Capacity-building and technology transfer for southern African
nations w/r/to sugarcane resources
- Promote south-south co-operation with major producing countries
outside the region
- Characterise the policy and regulatory environment and identify
new incentive schemes
- Compare key socio-economic and environmental impacts for
alternative cane co-product scenarios
- Identify feasible implementation strategies and sources of
international financial support for cane co-products, particularly
through the CDM
- Evaluation of alternative cane co-product strategies with
respect to financial and sustainability criteria
- Provision of an ongoing forum for discussion and information
exchange on sugarcane bio-energy resources in the region and globally
The network brings together five institutional or thematic phases
that are critical to the goal of harnessing cane resources for sustainable
development in southern Africa, and the project components have been
designed around these five phases (Figure 2).
- Agriculture: agronomic and harvesting practices for cane and
optimising of the biomass resource.
- Industry: the sugar and fibre resource streams and the agro-industrial
processes and technologies that separate and exploit these resource
- Markets: articulation of product demand and formation of markets
through sound policies, regulations, and economic incentives that
promote efficient implementation and market strategies.
- Impacts: socio-economic and environmental impacts across different
strategies so as to ensure that local and regional benefits are properly
incorporated into decision-making frameworks.
- Integration: including sustainable development, risk, competitiveness,
international comparisons and industry perspectives, associated with
the diverse elements and linkages of the network.
The main forms of interaction, communication, and information dissemination
through the network include:
- Project Meetings
- Scientific Exchanges
- Study Visits
- Three Workshops
- Continuously updated website
- Electronic newsletter
- Participation in International Conferences
The thematic network was launched in Fall 2001. Publications resulting from the project are
expected to include five thematic reports, three workshop proceedings,
conference papers, journal articles, and a book.
The European Commission's Directorate General for Research supports
the thematic network in the amount of 500.000 EURO. The Stockholm Environment
Institute (SEI) serves as Scientific and Administrative Coordinator
for the Network. There are three other principal contractors responsible
for the Network and nine members. The project team was designed to place
the key issues in their proper regional and global context, while also
promoting north-south and south-south cooperation on cane resource development.