Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) estimates indicate that India has so far realised only about 2 per cent of its waste-to-energy potential, leaving a huge opportunity to be harnessed.
In India, organic waste is generated by Municipalities, industries, agricultural and animal farms. The type of waste generated by such sources include municipal solid waste (hotels & restaurants, households, schools, college, hospitals and vegetable markets), industrial wastes (sugar, starch, food processing, dairy, brewery and oil processing), agricultural waste (residual waste) and animal waste (cattle dung, poultry litter, pig manure and slaughterhouse waste) etc. India generates municipal solid waste of about 50 million tonnes (mt)/year, by the urban population. A huge amount of organic waste is generated by these sources for example cattle, poultry, sugar (press mud) and fruit and vegetable processing generate about 876 mt, 27.3 mt, 8.3 mt and 17 mt of waste every year respectively. These industries are facing a big problem of management and disposal of their waste due to lack of awareness of appropriate disposal and conversion technologies and a fissured industrial ecosystem. On the contrary, these wastes have inherent potential to replace a significant amount of conventional energy.
MSW has a potential for generation of over 2,600 MW of electricity in the country as reported by the Planning Commission of India. However, from industrial waste, there exists a potential of about 1,300 MW. According to MNRE, about 249 MW has been achieved till 31st December 2014. Around 155 Organic Waste to Energy (OWTE) projects ranging from a few kilowatts to 10-15 MW capacity have been set up across India mainly in States like Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Tamil Nadu. A total of 13 projects with an aggregate capacity of 27.654 MW based on urban and industrial waste has been completed during 2013-2014 and 33 projects of around 20 MW capacities are in the pipeline (2014-2015).
Around 4.8 million household biogas plants of 1-6 m3/day have been installed with the support of MNRE. Apart from this, many decentralized plants have also been installed in hotels, industrial canteens and other institutions. Other than being a source of thermal and electrical energy, production of Bio-CNG from organic waste is becoming lucrative option for transport fuel. A total of 12 projects on Bio-CNG are being set up. The total production of Bio-CNG from these 12 projects set up so far is estimated to be about 17,200 kg/day .
In order to propagate the energy generation from waste, the MNRE developed a National Master Plan (NMP) for Development of WTE with prime objective to provide additional power generation capacity in a decentralized manner through projects for energy recovery from urban and industrial waste. This plan largely focused on MSW and industrial waste and lacks focus on other agrondustrial sectors such as fruit and vegetable processing. Apart from this, there are three national programmes), the National Biogas and Manure Management Programme (NBMMP) provides subsidies for family-sized biogas plants; the biogas based distributed/grid power gene¡ration programme with power generation in the range 3 kW to 250 kW and the Technology Demonstration projects for biogas generation, purification and bottling. Despite these programmes in place, there is insufficient signal for sectors to invest in innovative technologies, with the barriers being not only at the financial level, but also on lack of tailored technical and capacity building assistance.
The barriers in uptake of WTE projects in India may be classified under three major categories:-
Institutional and Policy Barriers: Lack of awareness of opportunities in WTE sector, insufficient incentives for using waste for energy generation, easy and convenient alternatives for waste/feedstock (use of cattle and poultry waste as manure) and timely update of policy can be listed here.
Technological Barriers: Sustainable supply of waste due to seasonality and low volumes, feedstock pre-treatment, inefficiency of systems (poor operation and maintenance; hygiene and disease control), lack of design and construction experience, supplier base and no guidelines to feed power into grid. Financial and Economic Barriers: High capital costs matched with limited availability of equity and loans, high operation and maintenance costs, cost of land, low return on investment, cost of imported equipment, lack of capacity in FIs to assess projects due to lack of data, lack of knowledge of potential customers, lack of awareness of life-cycle benefits of WTE plants and Insufficient investment, etc.
Overcoming barriers: In order to achieve the expon¡ential uptake of WTE projects, there is a strong need to focus on four major components as illustrated below:
I. Strengthening the policy and institutional framework which would include
a. Review and development of a revised NMP for waste to energy
b. Development of specific waste to energy strategic action plan between government and sectors to achieve NMP goals
II. Demonstration of financially feasible technologies in various sectors
a. Technical and financial assessment of the different business and technology models.
b. Development of due diligence guidelines and standardized technology packages for WTE for financial project approval.
c. Guide on developing new markets for products. d. Performance monitoring and analysis of installed projects.
e. Documentation of results of demonstration projects
III. Increased use of technologies in WTE applications (Scale-up)
a. A master database of potential industries for implementation of WTE projects.
b. Development of standardized long term feedstock supply agreements.
c. Establishment of a financial mechanism for viability gap funding.
IV. Capacity Building
a. Training programmes for stakeholders like FIs, technology providers, entrepreneurs, industry staff, service providers and local bodies.
b. Project facilitation service for different sectors (MSW, Industrial and Agricultural)
c. Development of knowledge products
Considering the quantum of waste generation in the country, energy security, mitigation of GHG emissions and policy interventions by the government, there is ample opportunity for investment in the WTE sector. Harnessing the unexploited potential from waste will not only enhance the safe disposal of waste, reduce burden on fossil fuels but would also reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Although the energy generation from organic waste and biomass has now been growing prolifically, the growth can be substantially improved over time.
This article has been authored by Dinesh Chander Pant, a Fellow and Area Convenor (Biomass Energy Technology Application group) of TERI, New Delhi and Astha Gupta, Research Associate, TERI.