Bioenergy could reduce Urban Waste and Environmental Pollution
10 Sep 2020
India is a fast-developing country, with high economic and industrial growth, energy demand is also growing. Non-renewable resources have used frequently in India due to lack of awareness and acceptability of renewable energy sources by power consumers. There are many disadvantages of using non-renewable energy resources as they have limited existence in environment, non-eco-friendly and not economical as India import all these type of energy resources. Therefore, it is essential to explore many others sustainable energy sources. One of those non-conventional sources is bioenergy which can provide firm power of grid quality. As concerns about climate change and energy security rise, bioenergy is often as a renewable energy source that can be cost-effectively scaled up to a level that would allow it to contribute signi?cantly to meeting global energy demand.
Bioenergy can be generated in myriad ways, however, using various feedstocks and various energy technologies, few conclusions can be drawn about its environmental effects. One can easily imagine biomass production systems that are ideally suited to their environment, and even contribute to improving the environment by revegetating barren land, protecting watersheds, providing habitat for local species, and sequestering carbon, all while contributing to livelihoods of rural communities. Yet one can just as easily imagine biomass production systems that are fossil fuel intensive, exhaust the soil of nutrients, exacerbate erosion, deplete or degrade water resources, reduce biodiversity by displacing habitat, increase greenhouse gas emissions, and threaten the livelihoods of local communities.
The growth of municipal waste is directly linked to the population and economic progress of a town, city, state or a country. With a population of around 1.35 billion, India generates about 80 million tonnes of waste each year. This is expected to grow up to 430 million tones per year by 2050. Of the total waste generated per year, 80 percent goes into landfills while less than 20 percent is treated or recycled. Therefore, the existing landfills are reaching their maximum capacity and there is a growing industry consensus that proper waste disposal techniques will be needed in the near future. Waste to Energy plants have rapidly emerged as an effective solution for waste disposal. India has the potential to generate about 1700 MW of energy from urban waste including municipal solid waste, sewage and industrial waste.
The total installed capacity of Waste-to-Energy (WtE) in India stood to contributes 140.20 MW as of March’ 2019. The achievement is quite below the target, which is far behind the target 10 GW by 2022. The quantum of waste generated in India has been one of the biggest drivers for the development of this segment. The India’s dally waste generation is thereby offering a huge potential for conversion of waste into energy. Various factors have contributed to low capacity additions in the bio-energy segment. The bio-energy segment has long suffered from neglect due to preference being given to the solar and wind segments. The advent of competitive bidding for both solar and wind, and the discovery of low tariffs have almost put a stop to the utilization of this renewable resource.
Government of India deployed different policies and executed that the strategies for bioenergy generation. Such approaches have included the whole biomass energy sector which incorporated the bio gas, bio diesel etc. in the policies. Government of India has focused on the deployment and development bioenergy sector with strategic policy and program. Many subsidies are provided for establishment of the biogas plant. New biomass gasification Technology was also evolved which converts biomass in to syngas, which are more efficient. Environmental degradation, public health concerns and inadequate land availability for garbage dumping have increased interest in the waste-to-energy sector in recent years. This can be attributed to poor choice of technology by developers, lack of institutional capacity for collecting and managing the waste of municipalities and the municipalities inability to define the roles of various agencies in the value chain, undertake proper baseline cost and cost-benefit analysis before bidding out a bankable Waste to Energy (WtE) project and ensure compliance with waste disposal guidelines. In addition, high capital costs, low internal return due to low feed-in-tariff, and other related issues limit the development of WtE projects in the country.
Government aim to increase the use of environmentally sustainable biogas power generation technologies in the country and enhance electricity supply through renewable energy sources. Scope of biogas generation is to meet the requirement of captive power and thermal power. The setting up of biogas and west-to-energy projects is to be promoted in industry, with at least 50% of power for confined use, and a stipulation for the surplus power to be selling to grid. This will amplify the use of non-conventional energy sources and conserve the use of fossil fuels such as natural gas, coal and oil. Biomass power & cogeneration programme is implemented with the main objective of promoting technologies for optimum use of country’s biomass resources for grid power generation.
What is Biogas:
The rising heap of waste is creating a public health hazard in the country. In this scenario, biogas has emerged as a promoting solution. Anaerobic bacteria break down food waste, which is disposed of in landfills, to produce biogas. However, process releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Biogas plants can tap this methane to generate electricity with the help of turbines and generators that can convert one form of energy into another. Biogas is a source of energy which is formed by the oxidation of methane, hydrogen, carbon di-oxide. After oxidation, the biogas forms and this gas is used as a fuel. It can be used for cooking, heating, for engine and electricity generation etc. The key benefits of biogas are:
• Biogas is Eco-Friendly.
• Biogas Generation Reduces Soil and Water Pollution.
• Biogas Generation Produces Organic Fertilizer.
• It is a Simple and Low-Cost Technology that encourages a circular economy.
• It is firm power in compare to other renewable sources.
Biogas is a renewable energy source that is generated through anaerobic digestive of biodegradable organic feed stock, which includes municipal, industrial, animal and agricultural waste. It has high methane content which can be purified and upgraded to natural gas quality. The upgraded biogas can be injected into a natural gas grid or used as transport fuel (bio-CNG or compressed biomethane). The replacement of fossil fuels and untreated traditional solid biomass with clean fuel like biogas for cooking, lighting and electricity generation will help in curtailing greenhouse gas emissions and indoor air pollution. The nitrogen content in the slurry after anaerobic digestion is more than that in untreated animal manure. Thus, it can be used as an organic fertilizer. The use of this bio-fertiliser would partly or fully offset the need for chemical fertilisers, which consume a high amount of energy during production.
Besides providing energy and manure, biogas production reduces the negative impacts of organic waste such as ground water and soil contamination, and the emission of local air pollutants like dioxins, furans and methane. Despite the multifold benefits of biogas, its production in India is quite low compared to the biogas potential in the country, which is estimated to be in the range of approximately 50 billion cubic meters per year. Both technical and non-technical barriers impede biogas production and distribution in India. The various waste renewable energy and urban policies have implications for biogas uptake. Also, the type of barriers and their impact on different biogas systems vary owing to the differences in technology maturity, feedstock availability and quality, supply chain, awareness level and policy support.
The government launched the first programme to support the biogas industry in 1981. It has since implemented several schemes such as the National Biogas and Manure Management Programme, the biogas power (off-grid) programme and the waste-to-heat programme. But it was only in 2016 that rules regarding the management and handling of solid waste which were first notified in 2000 by the MOEF were revised. Also, the central government released a new tariff policy for electricity distribution companies to mandatory procure 100 percent electricity generated from waste-to-energy plants and the Ministry of Power announced a generic tariff for waste-to-energy projects. Regardless of these efforts, the adoption of biogas technologies faces several constraints.
In recent years, India’s energy consumption has been increasing at a relatively fast rate due to population and economic growth. With rapid urbanization and improving standards of living for millions of Indian households, the demand is likely to raise a lot. Therefore, Govt. of India is now making various planning and policies in energy sector. Since Sustainable Development is now the key target of the world, therefore Renewable Energy Resources are considering for power generation. Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE) of India has developed many project and policies in this field and promoting to adopt these methodologies for generation of electricity through biogas by providing various subsidies and incentives.
MNRE provides Central Financial Assistance in the form of capital subsidy and financial incentives to the biomass and bioenergy projects in India. Central Financial Assistance is fixed to the projects on the basis of installed capacity, energy production mode and its application etc. Economic support will be made accessible selectively through a transparent and competitive procedure. The government provides a onetime capital subsidy based on the installed capacity of the project. The entire capital subsidy amount is transferred directly to the lead bank/lending financial institution for the purpose of offsetting the loan amount after winning commissioning of project. In case the project is situated by the promoters through their personal resources, the Central Financial Assistance would be transferred directly to promoters after commissioning of the project.
Besides the Central Financial Assistance, fiscal incentives such as 40% accelerated depreciation, concessional import duty, excise duty, tax holiday for 10 years etc., are available for biomass and bioenergy power projects. The benefit of concessional custom duty and excise duty exemption are available on equipment’s required for initial setting up of bioenergy projects based on certification by Ministry. In addition, State Electricity Regulatory Commissions have determined preferential tariffs and Renewable Purchase Standards (RPS). Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) provides loan for setting up biogas power projects and WtE projects. Moreover, IREDA permits a reduction in the interest rate based on project grading. The recent policy announcements from the MNRE might help to address some of challenges facing by the bioenergy segment. The government has also announced a National policy on Bio-fuels, 2018. To encourage the uptake of WtE projects, the MNRE in July’ 2018 approved the continuation of a dedicated WtE programme. The programme, Energy from Urban, Industrial and Agricultural Waste/Residue, has been approved with modified terms and conditions from 2017-18 to 2019-20.
The main objective of biogas and Waste-to-Energy programme is to create a conductive policy and financial environment for the development and demonstration of energy recovery through waste utilization. The programme will promote the installation of energy recovery projects from urban, industrial and agricultural waste to generate power and biogas, bio-CNG, enriched biogas, as well as promote the utilization of waste for thermal use through gasification in industries. The programme will also promote bio-mass gasifier-based power plants to cater to the unmet energy demand of industrial captive power and thermal demands of rice mills and other similar industries. In addition, the plants will provide electricity in rural areas for lighting, water pumping and running micro enterprises.
The bio-energy segment is now focusing on overcoming its challenges and drawbacks through the introduction of new schemes and regulations aimed at promoting waste management and energy generation initiatives such as the Swachh Bharat Mission and Smart Cities Mission have served as pivots to revamp interest in the sector by offering grants and raising awareness towards creating healthy competition between districts for better management of waste. This has, in turn, increased the number of new WtE projects significantly. The Solid Waste Management Rules released in 2016 have defined roles, responsibility and duties of all the stakeholders in the urban and rural waste management segments. Further, the time frames for implementing these rules as well as the environmental emission norms have been decided. Other key initiatives include the National Tariff Policy, 2016, that mandates 100 percent procurement of power from WtE projects for all discoms. In addition, the GST Counsel has set a low rate schedule of 5 percent for WtE plants and equipment. Meanwhile, NITI Aayog in its three year action agenda, FY 2017-18 to FY 2019-20 has suggested setting up the Waste to Energy Corporation of India which function will be to set up WtE plants in public-private-partnership mode to clean up MSW.
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs offers a 35 percent grant/viability gap funding for developing municipal solid and waste management projects, including waste collection segregation, disposal and energy recovery. These comprise projects based on municipal solid waste, industrial waste and the installation of biomass co-generation projects. Non-banking financial institutions also play a vital role in providing investments for projects in the WtE segment. These projects are financially viable and can obtain central financial assistance from the government to enhance their returns.
Barriers to biogas technology:
Barriers to biogas penetration differ based on the utilization area, substrate, resource potential, technological maturity, scale and region. There are socio-cultural barriers like objections to the use of animal and human waste as raw material in specific regions. Some barriers are specific to the utilization of biogas in transport or heat production. A number of filling stations are not willing to use biogas as vehicle fuel. To increase the dissemination of biogas in urban areas, there is a need to break down the following barriers:
i. High capital cost, unavailability of long-term financing options, high interest rate and high-risk perception by financial institutions are the major financial barriers to biogas dissemination in urban areas. The high capital cost and low revenue accrual act as entry barriers for small private players/developers. The lack of access to long-term financing and high interest rates and low internal rate of return affect the economic viability of biogas projects.
ii. The government initiated a demonstration programme to test the economic and technical viability of bio- methanation technology. However, the industry still does not have a well-established commercialized biogas technology functioning at the industrial scale for processing heterogeneous waste in urban India. Some financial institutions are reluctant to give credit for biogas projects in the absence of well-developed technology and due to the high failure ratio.
iii. Biogas is not as competitive as other fuels in the electricity sector such as coal and natural gas. The operations and maintenance coasts of biogas-based power plants are quite high compared to thermal power plants. Also, electricity from other renewable sources like solar, hydro and wind is cheaper than electricity produced using anaerobic digestion due to government support like fixed feed-in tariff and renewable purchase obligations. Biogas power plants cannot compete with large scale coal power plants. Even though feedstock is availability for free, the cost of handling and transporting waste over long distances is high, negatively affecting power plant economics.
iv. In the absence of a government mandate specific to biogas-based power, it is difficult to sell electricity generated from biogas plants to offtakes, and maintain a continuous revenue stream. Through slurry can be used as an organic fertilizer, it has to complete with heavily subsidized chemical fertilizers. Anaerobic digestion technology faces competition from other low cost waste treatment technologies such as composting, vermi-composting, and waste-to-pellets that can also be used for treating organic municipal and industrial waste.
v. Incentives like guaranteed feed in tariffs and regulatory power purchase obligations are necessary for the diffusion of the technology in this relatively immature market. This is evident in the case of solar and wind technologies in India where strong potential will and investment friendly policies of the government have driven growth in the past decade. Government incentives like feed in tariff, long term financing, capital grant, viability gap funding and tipping fee for waste collection and handling are not in place. In the absence of these, biogas projects cannot become economically viable on a large scale, which discourages private investment in this sector.
vi. There are also uncertainties related to feedstock supply and quality due to inefficient supply chains and low collection efficiency in India, which can hamper the production efficiency of plants and their profitability in the long run.
vii. Municipal corporations are responsible for waste management in urban areas. Due to their limited financial and technical capabilities, it is challenging to manage the growing solid waste in an integrated manner without the involvement of private players. There is also a lack of coordination between central and state governments
viii. A generic tariff for electricity generated from biogas and waste-to-energy projects was announced by the central government in 2016. However, the state electricity regulatory commissions have still not fixed a generic tariff for electricity generated from anaerobic digestion-based power plants. Thus, it is difficult to assess the project viability at the pre-investment assessment stage due to the unpredictability related to the power purchase agreement prices determined by the state commission’s. Risks associated with revenue streams, technology and feed supply are primarily borne by private players.
ix. Biogas can be upgraded, bottled and utilized as bio-CNG, without modification in vehicles. But it is only recently that a bio-CNG policy has been introduced in India. In addition, there should be proper legal standards in place, and preferably a single window regulatory approval system for grants and permissions from different government departments like the Petroleum Explosives Safety Organisation, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, etc.
x. The segregation of organic and non-organic waste is not done in urban households resulting in low quality organic feedstock. Dust and inert material also exist in varying degrees. Thus, sorting of waste is required before digestion at the plant, further increasing the overall generation cost and complexity. Moreover, poor collection and unorganized transportation of waste, especially in medical/small cities, increase the supply chain disruption risk.
xi. The failure to supply the committed quantity of waste to plants by municipal authorities was identified as one of the reasons for the shutdown of waste-to-energy plants. Process standardization is challenging due to large variations in waste characteristics across different regions. Also, there is a lack of available land space faced by the utilities. Therefore, local officials are strongly encouraging the use of biogas plants in commercial establishments in the city. Local council officers have set up demonstration plants, which use local food waste and provide gas for making tea for officials and their visitors.
Knowledge sharing among different states related to innovative dissemination strategies and success stories would also help increase the adoption of biogas technology in India. They can also look to developed countries like Germany & Sweden for policy lessons to promote the technology. For instance, government ban on the disposal of municipal solid waste to landfills has changed the waste management scenario and augmented the demand for biogas plants for managing organic waste. The Indian government should enforce waste management rules to stop the disposal of organic wastes in landfills to avoid water and air pollution. The participation of biogas project developers in waste collection, segregation and transportation can help them achieve better control over the substrate quality. Awareness campaigns should be launched to explain the need for waste segregation to being about a change in people’s habits.
The government has started taking steps to attract investments in this segment. In budget, the government made a provision to encourage cities municipalities to undertake WtE projects on a public-private partnership basis. Urban local bodies implementing WtE projects are also received support through instruments such as viability gap funding, repayment grants and low cost capital. To ensure the performance of these projects as per the set norms and their timely commissioning, the subsidy amount transferring to the developer’s account only after the MNREs monitoring of project operations. Under the scheme, the government has made provisions for creating awareness, developing skilled manpower, and conducting seminars or workshops for promoting WtE projects.
Moreover, the integration of waste pickers working in the informal waste management sector will streamline the whole supply chain. It will help improve their working conditions as well as socio-political integration. Strict policy measures are required to increase biogas production from municipal and industrial waste. Since municipal corporations have limited financial capacities, public-private partnerships should be encouraged to increase private investment in the waste-to-heat sector. Further, financial support from the central and state government is required to bridge the variability gap and make biogas projects economically vible. Financial incentives like accelerated depreciation and tax holidays will also help attract big private players to the sector.
Financial measures such as tipping fee or collection fee will help generate funds to co-finance and maintain the biogas products. Providing price based (preferential tariffs) or quantity based (minimum purchase quata) support from the government in the initial development phase can help reduce market risk faced by biogas electricity generators. In conclusion, a strong policy push is needed in the waste management segment in urban areas to deal with the rising urban waste treatment problems and costs. Recently the government has set a long-term target for increasing electricity generation capacity based on urban and industrial waste.
Benefits of biogas Projects
Biogas plants not only provide clean and continuous base load power, but also address issues concerning the storage and disposal of waste. In addition, in these plants power can be quickly ramped up or down to balance the sudden loss or increase in power and can therefore support renewable energy integration. The technology can also reduce greenhouse emissions in the atmosphere. Further, logistical issues involved in the transportation of waste to landfill sites which may be located over long distances can be avoided. The expansion of the industry is expected to create job opportunities for both skilled and unskilled labor. To this end, the Council for Skil Development is in the process of formulating an innovative plan to train waste pickers to make handloom artifacts from segregated waste items.
Long-term and improper waste storage in landfills may lead to leakage of harmful elements, which can contaminate the soil and ground water. This can be easily prevented by converting the waste into energy. India is also facing a public health problem associated with waste, which can be overcome using the technology available across the world. Therefore, an indirect benefit of WtE generation can be the improvement of life style and eradiation of multiple health issues prevalent in communities residing near waste disposal sites. The by-products from a power generating unit such as oils, gas and solid waste can be sold to industries or consumers, thereby generating additional sources of income for the plant owner. For instance, the plastic waste recovered can be mixed with tar to increase the life of roads or synthesis gas generated in converters can be used to produce electricity or can be refined into other valuable products such as synthetic natural gas, ammonia and ethanol.
Risk and Challenges
While the biggest challenges for waste-to-energy projects pertain generation, collection, segregation, treatment and disposal of waste, there are several other issues plaguing the segment as well. Key challenges restricting sector growth includes high capital and upfront cost, unviable generic tariffs, uncertainty in plant performance, lack of long term contracts, and inconsistent calorific value. Meanwhile, lack of awareness has continued to plague the segment. Waste-to-energy power plants face considerable opposition from residents of localities near the proposed sites. A model example is yet to be set by urban local bodies where the plants function at full capacity and waste is proposed simultaneously.
Most residents are bothered by the stench of municipal waste left untreated for days and the emissions caused due to incineration. Many a times, this leads petitions in courts by resident welfare associations against municipal corporations, resulting in project delays. A major barrier to the financing of waste-to-energy projects is the issue of marketing the end product such as power, biogas or bio-CNG. These projects suffer from poor fund flow in the initial years due to a challenging market as well as existing competition for products and co-products. This impacts cost recovery and subsequently, project profitability. Further, due to the government’s greater focus on the solar and wind segments, no major policy initiatives were seen in the bio-energy segment.
The implementation of the emerging WtE technology requires proactive government intervention. Although research is being promoted by the government to develop innovative WtE solutions, the implementation of technologies that are available has been rather sluggish. The segregation of waste continuous to be the biggest challenge for large-scale technology adoption. A proper waste management cycle is necessary to drive maximum benefits from the technology. Organisations are also facing a scarcity of funds for pilot projects primarily due to the lack of information regarding the technology and competition from alternative sources of power generation. Incineration plants are susceptible to backlash from residents and non-governmental organizations in case the air quality in these plants sites deteriorates. Therefore, WtE plants will require stringent air pollution norms and implementation guidelines in order to maintain clean air in areas surrounding to WtE plant given that India is already grapping with the improper adoption of air quality norms for thermal power plants and urban transport.
Bioenergy systems can if properly designed, yield signi?cant bene?ts, both environmental and social. The right choice of biogas technology and production methods can lead to favorable carbon and energy balances and a net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. But bioenergy production systems also need to be adapted to local conditions to avoid generating environmental problems. As a guiding principle, bioenergy crop systems can potentially provide bene?ts if implemented on land that is currently under annual row crops or is undergoing uncontrolled degradation. In either case, providing social bene?ts will require engaging local communities and understanding the current uses of the land, such as food production, livestock grazing, and fuelwood gathering. Bioenergy production can be a suitable alternative if designed in a participatory manner with those whose livelihoods will be affected.
Under the WtE programme, central financial assistance will be given for setting up waste-based biogas or bio-CNG production plants, power generation plants and biomass gasifies. These incentives will be in the form of capital subsidy and grants-in-aid. They will also be provided for activities that promote waste utilization for energy recovery like research and development, resource assessment, technology up gradation and performance evaluation.