Nigeria: As Nigeria's First Solar-Powered Brewery Clocks One

22 November 2019

Eromosele Abiodun who, along with other journalists visited Gateway Brewery, the first solar-powered brewery in Nigeria, writes that apart from the environmental considerations, using clean and renewable energy, International Breweries Plc has demonstrated its commitment to long-term investment in the country

In October 2019, International Breweries Plc, a proud part of the world's largest brewer, AB InBev, invited key stakeholders, the media, Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), the Ogun State government, and the Nigeria Climate Innovation Centre (NCIC), on a factory tour of its Gateway Brewery in Ogun State, the biggest brewery in sub-Saharan Africa.

Explaining the rationale, Legal and Corporate Affairs Director, International Breweries Plc (IB Plc), Michael Daramola, said the factory tour was part of the activities to mark the first year anniversary of the inauguration of the Gateway Brewery, the largest brewery in sub-Saharan Africa. It was also an opportunity to showcase Gateway Brewery's quality assurance processes, which ensure both the quality of products that get to consumers and the safety of its employees, contractors, partners on site and its host communities.

Indeed, the Gateway Brewery, built at a cost of $250 million (about N90 billion) was inaugurated on 28 August 2018. The factory tour, a year after, was a bold step by IB Plc to open up its operations to scrutiny and allow stakeholders have a firsthand glimpse of the factory's processes. It provided an opportunity to juxtapose current realities at the factory against claims made at the commissioning a year ago. The Gateway Brewery was built, according to International Breweries Plc, with its 2025 Sustainability Goals in mind, which is in alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSGDs).

The AB Inbev Group has a well-defined sustainability policy as ensconced in its ambitious 2025 Sustainability Goals. The goals include engendering smart agriculture to ensure the best ingredients for its brews. A significant portion of its raw materials, is sourced locally, thus boosting the production of such materials. Also, spent grain from its production process serves as a raw material in the production of feed for livestock farmers; providing potable water through the donation of solar-powered boreholes and water plants to its communities, use of recycled materials for packaging, and climate action to reduce greenhouse emissions.

Speaking on the rationale for the goals, the Global Chief Executive Officer of AB Inbev, Carlos Brito, had said: "We are building a company to last for the next 100+ years, both globally and in Africa."

The young Nigerian managers of the Gateway Brewery, who took the party round the facility and the different production phases, showed invited stakeholders the 2,000 square metres of solar panels for power generation. This investment in green innovation makes IB Plc the first company in Nigeria to power its plant with solar. The party was also shown the facility where the brewery produces bio gas from its by-products to help power its boilers. IB Plc explained during the tour that it converts the liquified natural gas it uses for its generators to gas to be used to also power its boilers.

Ensuring Local content

According to the brewery manager, Gateway Brewery's usage of renewable energy through its 150kWp Grid Tied Solar Power System (first phase) that supplies part of the plant's electricity is innovative and helps to defray some of the production costs. He said the combined heat and power system makes the plant to be one of the most energy efficient breweries in the AB InBev Africa group.

On waste management, the managers said the plant operates a strict adherence to 100 per cent waste segregation, effluents treatments, recycling of its bottles and by-product recycling. Equally impressive is that valuable and uncontaminated products like spent grains, etc are sold at cheap rates to the communities for animal farming. This gesture is a form of empowering the company's communities and forms part of the company's objective to transform its host communities "in respect of community development, health and education, the environment and other social welfare."

The implication of an energy efficient brewery is manifold, both for the business, the economy and the environment. The businesses that will survive and post strong growth are those able to creatively navigate the power challenge in a cost-effective way. So, apart from the environmental considerations, using clean and renewable energy such as gas and solar at the Gateway Brewery, International Breweries Plc has demonstrated its innovative side, which underpins its stated desire to continue in operation for the next 100 years and beyond.

Its energy self-reliance will help it manage production costs which will, down the line, translate to a more competitive pricing of its products. Eco-friendliness, perhaps, more than any other practice, will be pivotal to business sustainability into the 22nd century and beyond. For efficiency in operations and even market share, businesses across industries have seen the wisdom in reducing their carbon footprint to become environmentally friendly and contribute to a better world - this ties in with Ab InBev's vision of Bringing people together for a Better World. Commenting on the carbon footprint, Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria Climate Innovation Centre, Mr Bankole Oloruntoba, thanked IB Plc for the tour and commended the company for "deploying clean energy to run the brewery."

Demonstrating Sustainability

According to Oloruntoba, "IB Plc has demonstrated sustainability as a strategy model under the premise of people planet and profit. Their commitment to a zero-emission production line has clearly shown the possibility of a circular model in manufacturing, I am sure this will lead the possibilities inherent in the viability of a Green economy in Nigeria and the rise of real environmental responsible companies in Africa. Their investments in alternative clean power sources is impressive but most importantly the incorporation of sustainability in their operational processes is also going to positively impact the growth of Green Jobs of the future."

Safety of personnel and product also continues to occupy the front burner for Gateway Brewery. The insistence that the visitors go through a 20-minutes painstaking safety induction lecture clearly demonstrated this.

The safety instructor revealed that the safety unit has been strengthened over the past year in terms of personnel, tools, and trainings to ensure adherence to best practices.

It is in testament to this meticulousness to safety that in the one year of operation, no major accident has been recorded at the plant. The fully automated process ensures that consumers of Trophy, Hero, Budweiser, Beta Malt, Grand Malt and other products from the plant enjoy excellent quality brews.

Trophy and Hero lagers recently won the 2019 Monde Selection Gold Awards, the oldest Quality Institute in the World, in validation of their quality.

Zonal Coordinator/Director, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), Mr. Garba Shitu Ahmal, said the commission "observes I B Plc's commitment to ensuring consumers are availed quality products with the world class production process witnessed in the plant."

The FCCPC director, however, enjoined IB Plc to work closely with its distributors to ensure such quality is not compromised at the market end.

As the factory tour comes to an end with the cutting of the anniversary cake, Daramola assured that IB Plc would continue to raise the bar in terms of quality of its products, processes and its sustainability practices.

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