The three countries of the Ibsa Dialogue Forum –India, Brazil, and South Africa – have decided to focus the attention of their cooperation in renewable energy on biofuels, wind power, and remote electrification mainly through the use of solar technologies.
In their Delhi Declaration, issued at the end of the Third Ibsa Summit in the Indian capital, on October 15, the three leaders – South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh – “agreed to collaborate in diverse policy and technology areas to strengthen energy security in the three countries –they also look forward to working towards the diversification of energy baskets for a larger share of renewable, alternative and clean energy”.
Just two days earlier, the South African National Energy, Research Institute had identified biofuels, in particular biodiesel, as the country’s best short-term option for an alternative transport fuel. Brazil is one of the world’s largest and most successful producers and users of biofuels, originally ethanol for internal combustion engines, but increasingly biodiesel as well; the feedstock for the ethanol is sugar cane. India is using the jatropha plant, which is inedible, as the basis for the development of biodiesel.
“Neither are food crops,” highlighted Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma at the Ministerial Session of the Ibsa Business Summit, in New Delhi, recently, addressing inter- national concerns about the impact of biofuels producton on food prices. “It is the diversion of grains that has created this situation,” he said, referring to the use of maize as a biofuel feedstock by a number of countries. “There is no shortage of sugar or rum in the world!”
Interviewed by Engineering News, Brazilian Foreign Trade, Industry and Development Minister Miguel Jorge argues that “ethanol is a good product”. “Sugar cane is not used for food, and in Brazil we only use 2% of our agricultural land to produce sugar cane. “The increase in the price of food was caused by the increase in the price of oil. There is strong interest from India to invest in Brazil – a $600-million project to plant sugar cane, produce ethanol and export it to India.” In his statement at the Ministerial Session, Jorge said that Lula da Silva has been saying, on his travels, “Ethanol is the future of Africa, and of poor countries. It will certainly bring development.”
“For energy security, we need to access all available resources,” stressed Sharma.
Consequently, as a result of decisions taken at the Ibsa working group on energy, in May and September of this year, South Africa is leading the pro-cess of writing a memorandum of understanding for trilateral cooperation in solar energy.
India has offered its expertise in mapping wind resources, the supply of wind power equipment on a commercial basis, a wind energy training programme (which would cover both policy and technical aspects), and the use of Indian institutions involved in wind energy. India has also offered to host a seminar on trade and investment opportunities in wind energy in the Ibsa countries, as well as a workshop on energy efficiency.
It was agreed that the active involvement of experts, research institutions and industry was essential to achieve effective cooperation between the three countries in all these fields. The Ibsa countries also agreed to cooperate in engine technology, research and development, and capacity building.
The widespread use of ethanol in Brazil has resulted in the development of flex-fuel engines, that can take conven-tional petrol, ethanol, or any mix of the two, without the need for modification, and the three countries will each host a seminar, on flex-fuel engine modifications for cars and two-wheel vehicles (to be held in March 2009), on first- and second-generation technologies, and on technical standards and specifications for biofuels.