Author : Kolluru Krishnan

Expert Speak India Matters
Published on Apr 08, 2019

Processing bio-waste to bio-fuels and compost will enhance clean energy energy access as well as improve soil fertility.

Can India tap into its bio-waste supply chain?

To quote Erich Fromm, “We consume, as we produce, without any concrete relatedness to the objects with which we deal; we live in a world of things, and our only connection with them is that we know how to manipulate or to consume them”. This renowned  social psychologist & humanistic philosopher articulated, many decades ago, the adverse impact of unbridled exploitation of resources & degradation of the environment as well as ecological balance, which is now begun manifest itself in our everyday lives.

So much so that, today, climate change, renewable energy, circular economy, resource efficiency, SDG’s has entered into the lexicon of, not only governments, businesses and civil society, but also citizenry. This is encouraging, but, in an era where social media dominates discourse; there is risk that citizen angst being dissipated with “WhatsApp forwards” and policies are limited to “lip service”.

As observed in IT and telecommunication industries, “Centralized Administration Systems” are not conducive for managing “low carbon, sustainable and inclusive growth”. Science should lead to regulatory controls on GHG emissions, air & water quality, solid waste disposal, etc. Technology innovation will usher in solutions, as required for climate action & SDG achievement. However, widespread adoption of these solutions is highly unlikely, only based on mandates, within developing economies, where affordability & consumer convenience are paramount needs of population facing multiple deprivation. Hence, business innovation is equally important to custom engineer solutions appropriate to local dynamics as well as rapid scale up to attain affordable costs. Furthermore, it’s imperative to adopt a holistic, technology agnostic, approach, which optimally meets community needs. Currently, notwithstanding NDC’s and SDG’s, tangible progress is seen in limited areas, viz solar & wind, EV’s & storage, which are large industry driven. Sectors like waste, water, green buildings, sustainable plastics, which impact households directly, do not get the same ‘mindshare’ of policy makers and have limited access to commercial capital.

The Industry Perspective | Kolluru Krishnan
Kolluru Krishnan, Chairman, Skill Council for Green Jobs on the Industry Perspective during the India and Africa Partnership for Sustainability — March 2019.

Farm waste in India, is apt illustration. India has 141 million hectares net cropped land, which generates significant agriculture/ horticulture/ animal husbandry output and commensurate farm waste. It’s forecasted that, by 2030, agriculture residues, not having alternative productive use, will grow to 280 million (dry) tons, cattle manure to 370 million (dry) tons & poultry manure to 30 million (dry) tons. India is leading manufacturer of biomass fired boilers. Advanced bio-technologies enable processing farm waste to a wide range of bio-fuels, which have potential to cost effectively, replace fossil fuel alternatives. IEA had forecasted that ’modern‘ biomass could contribute 10% of the world’s primary energy demand by 2035. India’s National Policy on biofuels was released in June 2018 and Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas forecasted potential of 15 million tons bio-CNG. Hybrids of solar & bio energy lead to achievement of many SDG’s, as they impact jobs, health & many socio-economic parameters.

India is leading manufacturer of biomass fired boilers. Advanced bio-technologies enable processing farm waste to a wide range of bio-fuels, which have potential to cost effectively, replace fossil fuel alternatives.

Yet, progress in program implementation is woefully slow. The primary issue is the perceived risks related to “bio-resources supply chain”. What is inadequately appreciated is that with advancements in combustion, bio-chemical & thermo-chemical technologies, options for bio-wastes feedstocks has greatly increased. These bio-wastes have a direct correlation to human consumption, which is logically expected to increase as more and more people come out of poverty and enter the middle class. Bio-waste, untreated, is as much an environmental hazard as particulate emissions from IC Engines, hence, its management needs to be equally prioritized. Processing bio-waste to bio-fuels and compost/ bio-char will enhance clean energy energy access as well as improve soil fertility. Consequently, there is need for policies & fiscal instruments, which mitigate risks related to “bio-waste supply chain”. This will require bio-waste collection & aggregation to be managed as a green business, facilitated by mandates and enabling fiscal incentives, akin to the support being extended to EV’s. The secondary issue is lack of “bankable” off-take agreements, such as standard 20 years PPA that is available to solar power developers; this will, presumably, be addressed, once the lenders are on board.

Bio-waste, untreated, is as much an environmental hazard as particulate emissions from IC Engines, hence, its management needs to be equally prioritized. Processing bio-waste to bio-fuels and compost/ bio-char will enhance clean energy energy access as well as improve soil fertility.

The farm waste illustration is equally valid for water conservation & treatment, green buildings, sustainable plastics management, etc, all of which have mandates. We need to recognize that sustainable energy, circular economy & resource efficiency will become the norm only when producers & consumers adopt them as matter of choice. Similar to how automobiles replaced horse-carts, PCs replaced mainframe computers & mobile phones replaced land lines. For this transformation, it’s essential to have an ongoing process of sensitising all stakeholders & widespread capacity building. In parallel, change will have to be catalysed through mandates & appropriate regulatory frameworks, in conjunction with policies and fiscal instruments that foster adoption of “green practices” by the community and incentivize growth of “green businesses".

The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.

Author

Kolluru Krishnan

Kolluru Krishnan

Kolluru Krishan is the Chairman of CVC India Infrastructure and CVC Biorefineries. He has founded several Clean Technology companies and his current focus is on ...

Read More +