After the official launch of the 3.8 Million Euros interdisciplinary project dubbed “LevelUp” in July 28, 2022, a kick-off meeting and sod-cutting ceremony has been held with the project partners and stakeholders at the University of Energy and Natural Resources (UENR), Sunyani on Thursday, December 8,2022. The meeting, which was also graced by the Ambassador of Austria to Nigeria, Thomas Schlesinger, MSc, enabled the participants discuss and draw strategies for the successful implementation of the project.
The overall objective of the project is to research the technical and economic feasibility of a decentralized energy system based on local biogenic residues for the reliable and sustainable supply of electricity as well as for the use of other domestic activities including biogas in West Africa with special focus on Ghana.
Speaking at the opening session of the meeting, the Vice-Chancellor of UENR, Prof. Elvis Asare-Bediako remarked that UENR hosting the project as the major partner is committed to contributing to sustainability issues and sustainable development in Ghana and beyond. He emphasized that the project will impact the training of postgraduate students in the University to undertake research in the Energy sector that addresses Sustainable Development Goal 7 on Renewable Energy. He further commended the funder of the project, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the entire project team for selecting the University to partner the project.
The Chairperson for the colourful occasion was the Bono Regional Minister, Hon. Justina Owusu Banahene. In her speech, she noted that the project is timely as Ghana is being faced with huge waste challenges for past years. He added that in order to achieve the effective management of the energy, environmental and waste sectors in the country and elsewhere, there is a need for the requisite skills and international partners such as the German government. She was optimistic that the project will scale up the development of the Bono Region and called on the entire project stakeholders in the region especially the local government sector and traditional leaders to support the project implementation.
Giving his speech, the Ambassador of Austria to Nigeria, Thomas Schlesinger, MSc, observed the value of clean and safe environments anywhere in the world, especially in Ghana where it is inexpensive energy for all. He underscored that like Austria in Europe, Ghana has long been regarded as a hydropower pioneer in Africa. However, changes in the climate and increasing energy consumption, which is of course normal in a country with economic growth, have led to growing problems in the supply in recent years. Although these bottlenecks have now been eliminated, they do not offer a long-term perspective if Ghana still wants to pursue the goal of a sustainable energy supply”, he disclosed.
Ambassador Schlesinger was pleased about the opportunity for Ghanaian and European students to conduct joint research on scientific issues directly at this research facility in real operation. This, he said, is a significant opportunity that only a few universities will have. He also congratulated the project team and the students who will be able to work at the facility in the coming years.
One of the Project Lead on the German side, Prof. Stefan Pelz giving the overview of the project disclosed that the LevelUp project is one of a kind which distinguishes itself through innovation and the conversion of organic waste materials into valuable products which creates new value chains in the region. He expressed satisfaction with the pace of work being done since the onset discussions held on the project.
Speaking further on the project, Local Project Leader, Ing. Prof. Nana Sarfo Agyemang Derkyi, UENR commended that Planning Committee for their efforts and enthusiasm in making the kick-off meeting a reality. He reiterated that the meeting focused on efforts to finalize the LevelUp Waste-to-Energy Project, outdooring its initiation, and ensuring the success of its implementation as all the project partners and other stakeholders gather and analyze the start of the project. “We continue to demonstrate the spirit of cooperation and commitment that has guided us since we started our meetings some four years ago. We will also cut the sod at the project site to kick-start the project”, he said.
Dr. Christian Addai Poku (of Ghana Tertiary Education Council), represented the Minister of Education, Dr. Yaw Osei Adutwum as the Keynote Speaker for the event. In his keynote speech read on his behalf by Dr. Christian Addai-Poku, he congratulated UENR for its accomplishments in the area of renewable energy education, research, and technologies, and the strong niche it has created for itself. He thanked the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, for the funding support of the ambitious project, and pledged the Ghana Government’s support for UENR to meet its obligations in ensuring the success of the project.
The Minister reiterated that as society advances and new technology is introduced, the waste generated becomes more diverse and complex; and that one way to integrate the principles, values, and practices of sustainable development is through the waste-to-energy concept.
The Minister also stated that the current government of the Republic of Ghana is committed to education and the impact of education on society to solve the numerous challenges the country faces including energy and the environment. He emphasized the role of institutions of higher learning, to find space and ways to ensure that the sector contributes to the endeavours of tackling these challenges. He intimated that there is a potential for this country to implement policies and waste management strategies to divert more waste toward energy recovery.
The Minister noted that sustainability is central to the Government’s purpose of creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Ghana to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth, and these can be achieved through education. He emphasized that education has a key role in helping citizens rise to the challenge of making Ghana a better place for all, solve problems, and adapt to changing circumstances with higher levels of sustainable economic growth. He maintained that a supportive education should weave through a just energy for a sustainable environment.
There were other presentations and remarks delivered by the various project partners locally and internationally. The meeting was climaxed with a sod-cutting ceremony held at the project site at the Sunyani Campus of UENR.