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Producing energy from biomass

PAKISTAN is currently facing an acute and unprecedented energy crisis with the gap between supply and demand widening.

Consequently, the country is facing the worst kind of power load management, at the cost of closure of industry and jobs, lowering of exports, and overall economic and social stagnation. Generating power by traditional means are either difficult, costly or require a long period of time.

Renewable sources of energy, like wind power, solar, biogas and biomass offer sustainable solution. We can easily develop bio energy using indigenous technology and resources.

Having the fifth largest livestock, the country coupled with agricultural base is blessed with tremendous potential for producing biomass.

Besides animal dung, agricultural residue like cotton stakes, sugarcane waste, fruit/vegetable waste, grass, weeds, marine and fresh water algae produce millions of kilogrammes of biomass on a daily basis, which can give millions of cubic metres of biogas per day. The table shows the breakup of some of biomass resources in the country.

Statistics show that Pakistan possesses tremendous potential for generating renewable energy from biomass. Biomass energy can be used as a short-term strategy, requiring as low time as 18-24 months. By using animal dung, the country can produce 50 million cubic metres of biogas per day from the available 66,000 tones of animal dung in a day.

Another 150 million cubic metres of biogas a day can be produced from almost 3.65 million tones of fruits and vegetables that gathers in markets every year. Poultry waste, organic (solid/sewage) waste can also be used to produce millions of cubic metres biogas.

However, the formulation of the Renewable Energy Policy is key to increasing the share of renewable energy in the energy mix . While the original Renewable Energy Policy 2006 was silent about the huge and untapped potential of biomass and biogas, the policy was revised in 2012 to include these two sources. But even the revised policy was silent on exploiting biogas and biomass.

Therefore, the country should adopt an integrated energy policy, as is being done by other developing and developed countries.

With a view to save the precious natural gas, and to ensure that renewable energy plays an important role in the energy mix, the following steps should immediately be taken to address the energy crisis in the short-term. The renewable energy policy should also be revised and an institutional framework be established on the following lines.

Firstly, no village and town should be given natural gas supply. Rather the cost of laying gas pipeline to the place from the national grid should be given up to gasify the village by producing decentralised biogas from animal dung and biomass.———

Natural gas supply to CNG stations should be gradually shifted to biogas, using an incentivised market mechanism.

Incentives, including a certain percentage of up-front cost along with reimbursements of the total cost on monthly/quarterly installments should be paid till the recovery of total cost of renewable energy installations for developing renewable energy by individuals, companies, groups or institutions, under a pre-defined mechanism and strict audit and monitoring.

The renewable energy tariff formula should be redefined to include bio energy for renewable power generation and sale to the national grid.

All renewable energy projects/programmes should have to develop proposals for earning carbon credits under the Clean Development Mechanism or the Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions.

The private sector should be encouraged through public-private partnership in developing renewable energy using various incentives and cost sharing mechanisms.

Research and development should be promoted in renewable energy technology, and linkages/exchange programmes should be launched with the renowned international research institutions in this field.

The writer holds a doctorate in natural resource management

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