Awareness and adequate policies will spur growth in Indian biogas market: IBA chairman

Gaurav Kedia, founder and chairman of Indian Biogas Association

Gaurav Kedia, founder and chairman of Indian Biogas Association (IBA) and managing director of Arka BRENStech, talks about the mission and activities of Indian Biogas Association.

Tell us briefly about Indian Biogas Association and its mission

The Indian Biogas Association is the first nationwide and professional biogas association for operators, manufacturers and planners of biogas plants, and representatives from science and research. The association was established a couple of years ago to promote a greener future through biogas. The motto of the association is “propagating biogas in a sustainable way”. The Indian Biogas Association has members from the different biogas related fields to promote biogas in politics, public and science. The main aims to be pursued by the Indian Biogas Association are promotion of technical developments, promotion, evaluation and communication of research findings and practical experiences from the field of biogas technology for the benefit of the public and the environment, and to provide training for research and development growth.

Gaurav Kedia, founder and chairman of Indian Biogas Association

We are even involved in issuing publications along with exchanges of experience through participation and implementation of exhibitions, conferences and other events. A detail can be seen at website.

We already have streamlined the bio-energy road map. We are closely in touch with the international organizations like SNV World, Energy for all, ANGVA, German Biogas Association, and Vietnam Biogas Association to realize the bio-energy dream.

What is the current status of biogas industry in India, compared to some 5 years ago? How do you expect this to grow over the coming years?

India is currently facing acute Energy shortage due to rapid developments. Over the years, the country has been too dependent on foreign countries for oil imports. With the unpredictable oil prices in the global market, India is keen on developing other alternatives for generating fuel.

Among workable choices like wind and solar power, biogas is also seen as a viable option for generating renewable energy. Biogas Technology predominantly offers an excellent alternative energy source for energy poor in India. It has the potentials to cater to the needs for cooking and basic fuel. Moreover, rural areas are in a better position to utilize local resources like organic and cattle waste for the generation of biogas in a decentralized manner.

Being an agricultural country, agriculture is always a main source of income; biogas is not really the new technology in India. In 1970s National Biogas Program was introduced for finding adequate solutions to the fuel shortage crisis. There have been a lot of researches conducted for improving the biogas production by using different feedstock including lignocellulose material. Although India is moving at a decent speed in the production of biogas, there are huge scopes for further growth in the sector. In the year 2012 alone, about 4.30 million biogas units of household scale have been installed, although the potential estimation was expected to reach 12 million plants. This explains the volume of energy demand in the country.

Next 5 years are very important for biogas industry in India, It will shape the future of industry and personally I feel it looks promising. National Biogas and Manure Management Program was introduced with the main aim of reducing the consumption of LPG gas in villages and rural areas. Going for renewable energy resources is an excellent workable option. In fact, it could be the only way going forward. Recently only, Indian government has come out with the proper subsidy program for biogas generation, upgradation and bottling as well.

Even non-government agencies have been very instrumental in installing thousands of biogas plants in several Indian states. The trend of private investments is more likely to be picked by many organizations. With the FDI (Foreign direct Investment) being lenient and favorable to international investors, we can only expect more international companies planning to invest on Biogas energy in India.

 What are the potential areas for R&D in biogas industry in India? What are your contributions in this regard?

We always emphasize that Biogas is associated with Bio-slurry i.e. bio-fertilizer. Therefore, the R&D sector in Biogas industry must consider both simultaneously to make Biogas a success. A lot of potential of raw material storage esp. silaging do exists apart from a proper customization of biogas generation technology under R&D consideration. We believe that Biogas upgradation to natural gas quality and further bottling and replacing commercial LPG with the Upgraded Biogas can offer a subsidy independent business proposition. Therefore, a proper R&D for such technology and furtheron, upgraded biogas utilization in industries and automobiles do exist.

Same is the case for the enrichment of Bio-slurry to make it a viable option. IBA is committed to the development of Biogas. We have already demonstrated several plants for biogas upgardation and bottling. The biggest one of 350 NCum at Sewage Treatment Plant in Jaipur, India is soon going to be started. We are trying to streamline the different available technologies. Apart from it, we are in closed touch with MIT to look for the possibility of conversion of Biogas to Diesel equivalent. We believe that R&D is a necessary platform to build the Biogas sector in a proper manner.

What are the major hurdles involved in promoting biogas industry in India?

Awareness of the public and lesser initiatives from government are the current challenges faced by the biogas industry in India. Lack of end to end biogas solution player too can be attributed towards the challenge. Additionally, government initiatives are currently favoring more towards solar and wind and it soon needs to address biogas as well. IBA is emphasizing on push-pull concept. We believe, if the initial support from Government allows the biogas industry to flourish in a sustainable way then the market pull is enough for the Biogas industry to grow further-on by itself. The supply chain management issues also need to be addressed properly. A lot of biogas industry failures have happened because of the lack of supply of feedstock.

 Are government policies effective in building consensus among stakeholders and tapping the existing potential of the market? Explain

Government of India is pushing for renewable energy and as a first step has pushed its target from 6.4percent to 15percent for the year 2020. Although the goal accordingly increases the percentage of solar, wind, biomass, and other renewable sources’ contribution to India’s energy mix but still biogas doesn’t get much push. There are some financial supports available for electricity generation and recently for biogas upgradation and bottling as well from biogas and for community based models. Nevertheless, a proper policy scale is lacking for biogas to target small, medium and large scale plant in a different and effective manner. Nevertheless, the scenario looks much better than earlier.

What are some of the areas where India needs to focus on? Rural, urban or industrial sector?

Biogas market can be segmented into four categories-household, small size (upto 85 cubic meters), medium size (upto 1000 cubic meters) and industrial scale (above 1000 cubic meters). India has already installed more than 50 lacs household plants as per MNRE, but still major challenges lies in operation and management of such plants. The industrial sector already seen a matured development especially in the field like distillery, STP, paper and pulp industry. The present challenge lies in supply chain of producing biogas from feedstock like kitchen waste, municipal organic solid waste etc. We believe that a decentralized manner of putting biogas plant can really cater to rural and urban energy poor.

Industrial segments producing organic wastes can focus of anaerobic digestion mainly to fulfill their captive needs. Nevertheless, if they have the surplus energy then they can definitely share it too.

What are the major categories/sectors that can produce biogas in large scale?

Any place with the proper availability of organic waste can theoretically opt for biogas generation. Industrial houses need to treat their organic wastes. Availing the anaerobic digestion route not only give industries the flexibility to generate their own power but also enables cost effective way of waste disposal. Some of the industry sectors which generate a lot of organic waste are leather, distilleries, paper and pulp, sugar, poultry industry, breweries, etc. Various industries, particularly the ones that are apprehensive about environment protection have already adopted biogas technology, and are producing their own electricity. The prospect for biogas energy in India looks promising from both, investor and service provider point of view.

Suggest some strategies that will help improve biogas adoption in India

Undoubtedly, biogas has got a tremendous future in India and we are committed to improve it further. The potential is immense but the only question to be answered is how to harness? Biogas can play a vital role in India’s sustainable economic growth esp. Because of the fact that a lot of bio-degradable biomass is available. India stands at number two at Renewable energy country attractiveness indices under biomass category as per the latest Ernst and Young report. This is evident if we practically see the unused cow-dung, press mud, banana stem and many other such organic materials. Since the biogas can be utilized in many ways like directly for thermal application, vehicular fuel and electricity generation, which can cater the field of energy poverty, it fits well to the market scenario.

Most parts of the country do not have grid supply or any proper fuel for cooking. With a vast potential and decentralized community based biogas plants, these out of grid regions can get some sort of electrical energy supply and pollution free cooking fuel. This would enable the growth of the society along with livelihood. On a different note, greater the promotion of biogas, improves lifestyle, livelihood, energy independence, and waste management with better hygiene conditions of the general public.

India has got almost 60percent land as arable land and more than 70percent still lives in rural area. Agriculture contributes more than 10percent to Indian GDP per year. As we know that Biogas plant has got an additional dimension in form of Bio-slurry, which is an excellent way of going towards organic farming. Organic farming is steadily picking up in India and the market for organic fertilizer is already present.

The strategy must be to tackle the different sizes of biogas plant in a different manner and the intensive must be based on the performance only.

Rajani Baburajan