Biomass has always been an important energy source for India considering the benefits and promises it offers. Being a carbon neutral fuel source, it provides much needed relief from power shortages. Moreover, biomass power projects generate employment in rural areas. They receive an investment of about $ 9251 million every year, leading to electricity generation of 5000 million units.
Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has realized the potential and role of biomass energy in the Indian context and has initiated a number of programmes for the promotion of efficient biomass conversion technologies to be used in various sectors of the economy.
About 32% of the total primary energy use in India is derived from biomass and more than 70% of the country’s population depends upon it for its energy needs. India has ~5+ GW capacity biomass powered plants: 83% grid connected and 17% off-grid plants.
The leading states for biomass power projects are Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka each one having more than 1 GW of Grid interacted biomass power.
Major Barriers and Challenges
Unlike solar and wind, biomass is relatively a much reliable source of renewable energy free of fluctuation and does not need storage as is the case with solar. But it is not the preferred renewable energy source till now, mainly due to the challenges involved in ensuring reliable biomass supply chain. This is because of the wide range in its physical properties and fluctuation in availability round the year depending on cropping patterns. Biomass from agriculture is available only for a short period after its harvesting, which can stretch only for 2-3 months in a year. So there is a need to have robust institutional and market mechanism for efficient procurement of the required quantity of biomass, within this stipulated short time, and safe storage till it is finally used.
Some of the major barriers faced in faster realization of available biomass power potential for a variety of end use applications are (i) inadequate information on biomass availability, (ii) absence of organized formal biomass markets, (iii) problems associated with management of biomass collection, transportation, processing and storage; problems associated with setting up large size biomass plants, (iv) non-availability of cost effective sub megawatt systems for conversion of biomass to energy in a decentralized manner, and (v) lack of capability to generate bankable projects on account of financial and liquidity problems, etc.
The major challenge in ensuring sustained biomass supply at reasonable prices are: Increasing competing usage of biomass resources, leading to higher opportunity costs; unorganized nature of biomass market, which is characterized by lack of mechanization in agriculture sector, defragmented land holdings, and vast number of small or marginal farmers. Another major challenge is the cost of biomass storage and transportation to power plants, which is consistently rising rapidly with time.
There is the need to evolve a robust organized biomass market through innovative business models, motivating rural entrepreneurs to take up the responsibility of supplying biomass to processing facilities. There is also the need to develop and exploit energy plantations to take up energy crops on marginal and degraded land, as a substitute for crop wastes.
Some of the Indian states leading the pack in establishing biomass based power supply are Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Chhattisgarh. Ironically, many states with agriculture based economy, despite good biomass power potential, have not properly been able to utilize the opportunity and figure low in biomass power achievements. Only Uttar Pradesh in north India has utilized large part of the biomass potential, which can be attributed to its sugarcane industry, with cogeneration power plants. There is also wide variation in tariff being offered for biomass power plants in different states. Government policy can play a big role in enhancing the viability of biomass power plants and in supporting investment growth in the biomass power sector in states with high biomass power potential.
If you are looking into the biomass sector in India, get in touch with our experts to know more.
- Overview of biomass power sector in India // https://biomasspower.gov.in
- Biomass energy in India // http://indien.um.dk/en
- Biomass sector in India – Problems and Challenges // https://www.bioenergyconsult.com