The first system in Peru to produce clean energy from municipal sewage is in the city of Cusco. The water utility – SEDACUSCO decided to use the resources derived from the city´s sewage treatment – sludge and biogas, to reduce sewage treatment´s energy costs and lessen environmental impacts.
In 2014, SEDACUSCO supported by the Ministry of Housing, Construction and Sanitation and the German development cooperation, implemented by GIZ, through the WaCCliM project, started operating an anaerobic digester for treating sludge and producing biogas on a continous basis. In this way, SEDACUSCO attained a steady reduction in the amount of untreated sludge disposed of. In 2020, SEDACUSCO avoided about 7,804 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year (t CO2 e/year), equal to 5,574-passenger flights from Lima – Frankfurt – Lima. Meanwhile, the biogas was flared and released into the atmosphere without valorization.
As of March 2021, SEDACUSCO based on the German experience, is pioneering in turning biogas into thermal and electrical energy, that will supply all of the San Jerónimo plant´s electrical need to treat the sewage and become energy – autonomous. The inauguration of this biogas-powered clean energy production system, took place on 25 March, and was attended by the Minister of Housing, Construction and Sanitation alongside other officials from the Ministry, regional and local governments of Cusco, and SEDACUSCO itself.
With the implementation of this new system, SEDACUSCO will save EUR 260,000 in annual electricity costs and use the biogas avoiding 544 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year (t CO2e/year) in addition to the emissions avoided by the sludge treatment.
This initiative is the first of its kind in the country and will serve as an example for other water utilities. A key aspect was SEDACUSCO’s ownership of this new approach – considering sludge as a resource rather than waste; and thus addressing not only its challenges in sludge management, sewage treatment and clean energy generation but also reducing its carbon footprint.
In the future, for scaling up and replicating such initiatives, it will be required to assess the potential if residual sludge (digestate) can be used as an organic compost and surplus produced energy can be exported for usage beyond the plant. Moreover, to leverage financial resources and strenghten capacity to adapt and implement the technology to different country´s contexts. The bottom line is that Peru’s water utilities are moving forward in the carbon neutral transformation of their operations.