Problem Addressed

Anaerobic digestion transforms organic wastes such as manure, human excrement, and food wastes, into clean-burning methane and a nutrient-rich fertilizer. Biogas technology should improve energy security, indoor air quality, and agricultural yields—all while delivering a modern standard of sanitation. The Ugandan government, recognizing the development potential of biogas systems, seeks to install 20,000 digesters across the country. Sadly, over half of newly installed biogas systems are abandoned within the first year of operation. Meanwhile, thousands of potential customers who desire access to this technology have been unable to access the resources they need to secure this technology.

Biogas systems have generated a lot of excitement, but they have not delivered on their development potential. W2E studies the challenges facing this sector and has developed new innovations to make biogas systems work.

Innovative Approach

W2E’s program is innovative in several ways. First, they focus on institutional level biogas systems, tackling sanitation problems that occur in settings like schools, hospitals, orphanages, and other densely populated institutions. Second, they take a research-based approach to system innovation that is directly guided by end-user feedback. And third, they are closely linked to a private-sector partner, Green Heat, thereby ensuring a rapid path to commercialization and scaling of their innovations.

Monday Gideon: A Clean Future for Uganda

Program Solution

W2E is a clearinghouse for anaerobic digestion research. They focus on three themes:

1) Technology development and field testing
Their field-based research site in Mpigi, Uganda is home to a 30 cubic meters, full size, fixed-dome digester, enabling them to field-test, document, and verify the viability of new biogas technologies and system management approaches. Currently, their team is focused on (1) developing a low-cost solid-liquid separation combined heating element that improves pathogen kill and bioslurry management, and (2) developing agricultural recommendations for slurry application.

2) Documentation of development results with biogas end-users
W2E researches the actual results of biogas technology on (1) indoor air quality, (2) public sanitation, (3) agricultural productivity, and (4) energy security, using intensive, community-based, interdisciplinary methods. They work directly with local biogas system users in Uganda to monitor system performance and to collect feedback on end-user satisfaction.

3) System user education and outreach
The organization has developed a training module for biogas system end-users to educate new system owners on how to care for their systems. They have conducted end-user trainings and follow-on support as well as technology advising. Based on their experiences with end-users, they are currently exploring the potential for new financing models that will make this technology accessible to more potential customers.

W2E draws upon the expertise of faculty and students from Makerere University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison to help guide their research. They also partner directly with Green Heat Uganda Ltd., a for-profit biogas installation company, to ensure that all of their research and innovations have a clear path to rapid commercialization and scaling.

Waste2Energy (W2E)


Partners: Green Heat Uganda Ltd, Makerere Center for Research in Energy and Energy Conservation, UW-Madison (Environmental Studies, Global Health, Biological Systems Engineering)