Cuba Seeks Investors For Biomass Power Ventures

Cuba Seeks Investors For Biomass Power Ventures

Cuba is seeking foreign partners to invest in biomass electricity generation projects that would use sugar cane residue left over from the island's sugar industry.

"These energy projects certainly require the participation of companies which could contribute capital," said Sugar Minister Ulises Rosales del Toro earlier this month. The announcement came in Havana during a conference on electricity generation and the sugar industry.

Rosales said the Norwegian government was interested in cooperating with Cuba in a possible co-generation venture in the sugar industry that would mostly involve private companies.

Cuba's Sugar Ministry has held negotiations with companies from a number of countries, including Spain and Brazil, about possible ventures in power generation and the manufacture of other sugar industry by-products.

Two Spanish companies, sugar company Azucarera Ebro Agricolas and energy firm Union Fenosa, announced last year they would join forces to undertake power projects in Cuba.

Gilberto Font, who heads the ministry's newly created electricity company, Bioenerco, said the Cuban government had made it a priority to increase power generation using biomass fuel, principally the bagasse sugar cane residue left over from the sugar manufacturing process.

Cuba's sugar mills burn the dried bagasse in furnaces to generate electricity and Font said the island's 155 mills had a total installed generating capacity of 800 megawatts.

A seven million ton sugar harvest could produce 18 million tons of bagasse residue, plus other surplus waste, which could be used for power generation, Font added.

Cuba's 1999-2000 sugar crop was just over four million tons, 7% up from the last harvest, but below pre-1989 ouput levels of between seven and eight million tons.

Font said that by boosting its own electricity-generating capacity through new projects, Cuba's sugar industry would help to substitute costly oil imports and contribute to national efforts to achieve greater energy self-sufficiency.

The Sugar Ministry had identified a number of promising generation projects around the island, including one at the Hector Molina mill in Havana province.

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