<body> -------------------
Contact Us       Consulting       Projects       Our Goals       About Us
home / Archive
Nature Blog Network

    Spanish company Ferry Group is to invest €42/US$55.2 million in a project for the production of biomass fuel pellets in Bulgaria. The 3-year project consists of establishing plantations of paulownia trees near the city of Tran. Paulownia is a fast-growing tree used for the commercial production of fuel pellets. Dnevnik - Feb. 20, 2007.

    Hungary's BHD Hõerõmû Zrt. is to build a 35 billion Forint (€138/US$182 million) commercial biomass-fired power plant with a maximum output of 49.9 MW in Szerencs (northeast Hungary). Portfolio.hu - Feb. 20, 2007.

    Tonight at 9pm, BBC Two will be showing a program on geo-engineering techniques to 'save' the planet from global warming. Five of the world's top scientists propose five radical scientific inventions which could stop climate change dead in its tracks. The ideas include: a giant sunshade in space to filter out the sun's rays and help cool us down; forests of artificial trees that would breath in carbon dioxide and stop the green house effect and a fleet futuristic yachts that will shoot salt water into the clouds thickening them and cooling the planet. BBC News - Feb. 19, 2007.

    Archer Daniels Midland, the largest U.S. ethanol producer, is planning to open a biodiesel plant in Indonesia with Wilmar International Ltd. this year and a wholly owned biodiesel plant in Brazil before July, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. The Brazil plant is expected to be the nation's largest, the paper said. Worldwide, the company projects a fourfold rise in biodiesel production over the next five years. ADM was not immediately available to comment. Reuters - Feb. 16, 2007.

    Finnish engineering firm Pöyry Oyj has been awarded contracts by San Carlos Bioenergy Inc. to provide services for the first bioethanol plant in the Philippines. The aggregate contract value is EUR 10 million. The plant is to be build in the Province of San Carlos on the north-eastern tip of Negros Island. The plant is expected to deliver 120,000 liters/day of bioethanol and 4 MW of excess power to the grid. Kauppalehti Online - Feb. 15, 2007.

    In order to reduce fuel costs, a Mukono-based flower farm which exports to Europe, is building its own biodiesel plant, based on using Jatropha curcas seeds. It estimates the fuel will cut production costs by up to 20%. New Vision (Kampala, Uganda) - Feb. 12, 2007.

    The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has decided to use 10% biodiesel in its fleet of public buses. The world's largest city is served by the Toei Bus System, which is used by some 570,000 people daily. Digital World Tokyo - Feb. 12, 2007.

    Fearing lack of electricity supply in South Africa and a price tag on CO2, WSP Group SA is investing in a biomass power plant that will replace coal in the Letaba Citrus juicing plant which is located in Tzaneen. Mining Weekly - Feb. 8, 2007.

    In what it calls an important addition to its global R&D capabilities, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) is to build a new bioenergy research center in Hamburg, Germany. World Grain - Feb. 5, 2007.

    EthaBlog's Henrique Oliveira interviews leading Brazilian biofuels consultant Marcelo Coelho who offers insights into the (foreign) investment dynamics in the sector, the history of Brazilian ethanol and the relationship between oil price trends and biofuels. EthaBlog - Feb. 2, 2007.

    The government of Taiwan has announced its renewable energy target: 12% of all energy should come from renewables by 2020. The plan is expected to revitalise Taiwan's agricultural sector and to boost its nascent biomass industry. China Post - Feb. 2, 2007.

    Production at Cantarell, the world's second biggest oil field, declined by 500,000 barrels or 25% last year. This virtual collapse is unfolding much faster than projections from Mexico's state-run oil giant Petroleos Mexicanos. Wall Street Journal - Jan. 30, 2007.

    Dubai-based and AIM listed Teejori Ltd. has entered into an agreement to invest €6 million to acquire a 16.7% interest in Bekon, which developed two proprietary technologies enabling dry-fermentation of biomass. Both technologies allow it to design, establish and operate biogas plants in a highly efficient way. Dry-Fermentation offers significant advantages to the existing widely used wet fermentation process of converting biomass to biogas. Ame Info - Jan. 22, 2007.

    Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited is to build a biofuel production plant in the tribal belt of Banswara, Rajasthan, India. The petroleum company has acquired 20,000 hectares of low value land in the district, which it plans to commit to growing jatropha and other biofuel crops. The company's chairman said HPCL was also looking for similar wasteland in the state of Chhattisgarh. Zee News - Jan. 15, 2007.

    The Zimbabwean national police begins planting jatropha for a pilot project that must result in a daily production of 1000 liters of biodiesel. The Herald (Harare), Via AllAfrica - Jan. 12, 2007.

    In order to meet its Kyoto obligations and to cut dependence on oil, Japan has started importing biofuels from Brazil and elsewhere. And even though the country has limited local bioenergy potential, its Agriculture Ministry will begin a search for natural resources, including farm products and their residues, that can be used to make biofuels in Japan. To this end, studies will be conducted at 900 locations nationwide over a three-year period. The Japan Times - Jan. 12, 2007.

    Chrysler's chief economist Van Jolissaint has launched an arrogant attack on "quasi-hysterical Europeans" and their attitudes to global warming, calling the Stern Review 'dubious'. The remarks illustrate the yawning gap between opinions on climate change among Europeans and Americans, but they also strengthen the view that announcements by US car makers and legislators about the development of green vehicles are nothing more than window dressing. Today, the EU announced its comprehensive energy policy for the 21st century, with climate change at the center of it. BBC News - Jan. 10, 2007.

    The new Canadian government is investing $840,000 into BioMatera Inc. a biotech company that develops industrial biopolymers (such as PHA) that have wide-scale applications in the plastics, farmaceutical and cosmetics industries. Plant-based biopolymers such as PHA are biodegradable and renewable. Government of Canada - Jan. 9, 2007.

Creative Commons License

Saturday, August 19, 2006

An in-depth look at India's bioenergy strategy

Earlier we had an in-depth look at China's new biofuels objectives, and today, in a first of two essays, we focus on the bioenergy strategy of that other awakening giant, India. Unlike China, India's democratic decision-making process allows us to follow the green energy debate step by step, by reading the commission reports of India's Lok Sabha (the House of Representatives).
The most recent session of the 14th Lok Sabha features a Standing Committee on Energy, a watchdog for the Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources, whose latest report is entirely devoted to policy development and actions to be taken on "Biomass Power/Cogeneration". The focus is on stationary biomass energy only, so that excludes liquid biofuels for transport.

Drawing on this report, we have a look at India's bioenergy potential, its stated targets, the means to achieve them (financial incentives, R&D policies, awareness programs) and at a unique village energy security program involving 200,000 villages, that has been coupled to India's revolutionary 'National Rural Employment Guarantee' policy.
This is the epic tale of how the government of the second most populous country on the planet tries to bring renewable energy to millions of people.

Biomass potential
The Committee first discusses the huge biomass power potential for India as a whole:
  • the total potential is estimated to be above 120 Gigawatt
  • this includes 16,000 MW grid-interactive power from surplus agro-residues and wastes from forestry and plantations, 3500 MW through bagasse co-generation and 100 000 MW from energy plantations on 60 million hectares of wasteland.
To get a perspective on this potential, consider India's current per capita energy consumption. It stands at 6MWh per person per year (see the EarthTrends database on energy consumption), with great differences between urban middle class Indians and the vast mass of rural poor. If the biomass estimate is correct, India's green resource could in theory satisfy the energy needs of 175 million people during an entire year. And this in a renewable way, year after year, without major resource depletion. If social corrections for access to energy are made, and the potential were to be distributed over those Indians who make less than a dollar a day (approximately 360 million people), biomass alone could satisfy all their energy needs permanently. (Obviously, their current energy use is many times smaller than that of the wealthier urban middle class).

India's Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources has been implementing a 'biomass power and cogeneration programme' since 1994, but over these ten years, only a fraction of the actual potential has been put to use:
  • 101 biomass power and cogeneration projects aggregating to 750 MW have so far been installed
  • 73 projects aggregating to 585 MW are under various stages of implementation. This includes 58 bagasse cogeneration projects aggregating to 450 MW and 34 projects under implementation aggregating to 312 MW.
The Indian government had fixed a target aimed at bringing 10% of the additional grid-interactive biomass power generation online during the 10th and 11th Plan Periods (2002-2006/2007-2011), but at present it stands at a mere 5.5%. Therefor, the parliamentary committee is urging the government to create an effective implementation strategy for biomass and bioenergy, with a view to making it available at an affordable price to rural and urban citizens:
"Bioenergy should now be brought into mainstream for meeting/supplementing the energy demands in the urban and rural areas. The (federal) government should now evolve an effective implementation strategy for biomass power cogeneration program for maximum exploitation of biomass resources of the country with an objective to make biomass energy available at an affordable price to the common man."
It recommends a full effort on implementing policies for the development of two separate industries, namely solid biofuel combustion/gasification in cogeneration systems on the one hand, and biogas production on the other.

4 million biogas plants, already a sign of success
The ministry replies that biomass combustion technologies are already mature, but biomass gasification technologies are still in the development phase and that therefor it has not acted on the latter. However, the National Institute of Renewable Energy in the town of Jalandhar, which was formed several years ago when the federal government realized the importance of non-conventional energy, makes the counter-point by saying that all major biomass conversion technologies are mature and lack of knowledge should never be a reason to legitimise a lack of policies and action.

"Anaerobic digestion of animal waste in biogas plants for energy, manure and sanitation has made a significant impact in quality of rural life wherever it has been deployed," H.N. Chanakya, a fellow of the Centre for Sustainable Technologies, an energy think tank, is quoted as saying. Chanakya adds that the insufficiency of animal dung resources limits the use of this technology to only an eighth of the overall Indian rural population. But the convenience of a biogas plant in rural households, he said, has led to research and development efforts to extend the use of biogas plants to other non-animal dung biomass feedstocks and rural residues:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Biogas has been a reasonably successful renewable-energy technology developed and widely disseminated in India. Close to 4 million cattle dung biogas plants have been built against a potential of 12 million plants -- thus tapping a third of the potential. "The results achieved are good when compared to a simpler-to-disseminate energy device like liquefied petroleum gas. Yet the biogas program has not been runaway success as dreamt of earlier; (there are) gaps between expected levels of success and reality," said P. Rajabapaiah, a senior fellow of department of chemical engineering at the Indian Institute of Science. A numbers of review and research papers and Indian scholars attached to non-conventional energy matter research have pointed out that biomass residues available in India could produce high levels of biogas and possibly solve the dung shortage problem.

"The switching to non-dung biomass feedstock has proven to be far from simple. Most of the early efforts in this area involved powdering biomass feedstock, rendering them into slurries -- in short emulate the cow-dung feedstock in cow-dung-type biogas plant. In reality, such powdered biomass slurries inevitably stratified into a matted floating layer and a mass for biogas generation," said J.M. Madhok, another expert in non-conventional energy.

Encouraging private sector initiatives on biomass energy

The Committee had noted in its earlier report that the private developers were facing a number of problems in setting up biomass projects like firm assessments on availability of Biomass and ensuring its supply to the project, uncertainty on tariff to be fixed and evolving technology of biomass gasification systems. The Committee desires that these problems should be resolved on priority and in a time bound manner.

Biomass resource atlas as a planning tool
The Ministry in its reply submitted that a project for assessing the availability of surplus biomass in different parts of the country for conversion to energy / electricity has been initiated. Under this project, a "Biomass Resource Atlas for India" is likely to be completed by March 2007 and the same would be placed on the website of this Ministry for use of prospective project developers.
The subject of tariff fixation and related issues are of a quasi-judicial nature in the implementation of which the Ministry has no direct role. Even then, the Ministry has been taking up such matters with the state governments from time to time, depending upon the facts and circumstances of the cases.

The Committee indeed urges the ministry to ensure timely completion of such a Biomass Atlas. However, there appears to be a need to further improve the gasification technology and make the same available to private developers. The Committee desires that this should be done in a systematic manner throughout the country.

R&D for Biomass/Cogeneration Projects

A lot of work has been done in developing small capacity biogas production units and biomass gasifiers and industrial scale biomass furnaces, boilers, dual fuel engines, and so on. With the increase in the use of natural gas, now industry has started manufacturing gas compressors and producer gas engines. The Committee desires that the R&D efforts should now be concentrated to develop and implement selected co-coordinated projects with the target to develop demonstrable technology packages having potential for wider adaptation.
The Committee also desires that Government should prepare a detailed programme for the setting up of pilot and first of a kind commercial scale units to demonstrate indigenously developed technology packages and develop confidence of industries concerned. The Committee further wishes that in preparation of such programme/ project the participation of as many stakeholders as possible should also be ensured.

In its reply, the Ministry has submitted that biomass combustion technologies are already mature. However, biomass gasification technologies, which are still in the development phase, will be supported at the National Institute of Renewable Energy (NIRE) at Jalandhar, when established, which will focus on bio-energy technologies and will be the technical focal point of this Ministry for all matters relating to biomass conversion technologies.

Village Energy Security Programme

The Committee observed that test projects would be undertaken by a Village Energy Committee formed by the Gram Sabha (village councils in India) and notified by the Panchayats and facilitated by implementing agencies such as District Rural Development Agencies (DRDAs), forestry departments and NGOs with technical inputs overall coordination and monitoring by the State Nodal Agencies. It was proposed to take up about 200,000 villages. The Committee wanted that role of NGOs in such projects should be well defined and monitored closely to check the misuse of the huge funds released under this programme for the benefits of poor villagers and the Government should issue strict guidelines in this regard.
The Committee also desired that Forest departments should certainly be associated in selection of forest fringe villages and plantation of fast growing oil seed bearing trees for getting better results.

The ministry replies that a decision whether to launch a full-fledged Village Energy Security Programme would be taken up depending upon the outcome of the test projects. Meanwhile, the task of electrification of remote villages is being continued under the Remote Village Electrification Programme of the Ministry which is expected to cover about 10,000 remote census villages as against an initial estimate of 25,000 remote census villages as per the updated data on remote census villages furnished by the Rural Electrification Corporation. In addition, however, remote hamlets of electrified census villages would need to be taken up. The number of such remote hamlets is not yet firmed up.
The implementation of the test projects is being done by the Forest Department, Zila Parishad or NGOs selected by the states. To prevent misuse of funds, the same are being released to government agencies/ SNAs who are required to deposit the funds in a Village Energy Fund operated by the Village Energy Committee. The accounts of a Village Energy Committee are to be duly audited as per the procedure being followed by the Gram Panchayats or the Joint Forestry Management Committees. The State Nodal Agencies have been assigned the responsibility for monitoring and coordination of the implementation of the test projects.
Since test projects involve plantation activity, states have been advised to suitably associate the Forest Department in the implementation of these projects, including those being implemented by NGOs.”

Though the Village Energy Security Programme (VESP) is still at test stages it is going to be the bedrock of energy source for about 200,000 villages in the country. The Programme if implemented with due care and alacrity has the potential of changing the face of rural India. The test projects of VESP have been lingering on for quite some time now. The Committee would appreciate that a firm time table be drawn up to conclude them at the earliest and based on the results thereof, implementation of VESP is initiated in the right earnest.

Training and awareness campaigns

If the projects of biomass co-generation were to be taken up on a large scale at the village/district level, proper training of the people, who will handle the equipment is required. The Committee wants diploma level courses to be organised in the polytechnic institutes in the various states.

The Committee also noted that Village Energy Security through the biomass programme relates to villagers and that there was lack of awareness about such an important scheme. The Committee therefor urges the government to take up extensive awareness generation and training programmes in prospect villages for local communities who will run the biomass power generating equipment. The Committee also desires that similar programmes should be arranged for Government functionaries, local NGOs, entrepreneurs, and othre stakeholders, in order to prepare a good team of facilitators.

The minstry agrees that awareness generation and training programmes are important components of the test projects. As per the terms and conditions of the test projects, local youth are to be trained as operators by equipment suppliers for operation and maintenance purposes. This has been reiterated through communications to the implementing agencies. Workshops and meetings are being organized for generating awareness among Government functionaries, local NGOs, entrepreneurs and members of the local communities in different States. Visits to various project sites are being organized for the implementing agencies and members of the Villages Energy Committees.

Part Two of this essay will be published in the coming days. Check back often.

The full report of the Standing Committee on Energy (2005-2006), Fourteenth Lok Sabha, July 2006, can be found here: Sixteenth Report: Action Taken on the recommendations contained in the Eighth Report (14th Lok Sabha) on the subject 'Biomass Power/Co-Generation Programme' – An Evaluation [*.pdf]

Chapter II of that report contains a series of formal recommendations.

Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources: draft New and Renewable Energy Policy Statement 2005.

Article continues