Rethinking energy and society

Rethinking energy and society in Ngodwana Mill

Climate change has resulted in shifting seasons and climbing temperatures, threatening to deprive us of the very things – air, water, food and a safe place to live – we depend on for survival.

Collaborating to find urgent ways to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and mitigate the effects of global warming is a universal challenge. So too, is addressing rising social inequality. In South Africa, the official unemployment rate is approximately 30%, with unofficial estimates suggesting it’s much higher. Against this backdrop, as a collective, we need to reshape our thinking about energy and social uplift.

A catalyst for energy transition and social uplift

Sappi Southern Africa is promoting the use of climate-smart renewable energy through a 30% stake in Ngodwana Energy, with consortium partners KC Africa and African Rainbow Energy and Power holding the remainder of the stake. The partners have established a 25 MW biomass energy unit at the mill.

What makes it different?

Planet: The project, which is situated at the Ngodwana Mill site, exemplifies the principles of the circular economy:

  • It’s using biomass recovered from surrounding plantations and screened waste material from the mill production process.
  • The power plant will burn up to 35 tons per hour of biomass in a boiler to generate steam and drive a turbine to generate electricity which is being fed into the grid.
  • Sappi already contributes to the national grid by selling surplus energy from the mill the state power utility, Eskom.
  • The project falls under the South African Government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPP). This programme is the result of the national need to increase energy capacity and reduce carbon emissions.


  • 20,000 households will be supported by the electricity produced.
  • 350 people were employed during the construction of the boiler.
  • 50 new jobs have been created through biomass collection from the surrounding plantations, 130 through the operations and maintenance of the boiler.  


  • 44% of spend is local.
  • 91% of procurement spend is empowerment spend, with a significant portion allocated to SMMEs and women vendors.

With this project, Sappi has become one of only a few companies in South Africa to embark on a biomass energy project.