National Policy On Biofuels, 2018

National Policy on Biofuels, 2018 was released by Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) to augment bio fuel production and to address concerns regarding sustained and quantum non-availability of domestic feedstock. Bio fuels production in India is of strategic importance as it augers well with the initiatives of the Government such as Make in India, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Skill Development whileoffering solutions to realize targets of doubling of Farmers Income, Import Reduction, Employment Generation, Waste to Wealth Creation, etc.

What are Biofuels?

Bio fuels are combustible fuels created from biomass or a living plant matter as opposed to ancient plant matter in hydrocarbons. Biomass resources include biodegradable fractions of products, wastes and residues from agriculture, forestry and related industries as well as the biodegradable fraction of industrial and municipal wastes.

Generation based Categories of Biofuels

  • First Generation Biofuels (1G): These fuels rely on food crops as their feedstock, for example, corn, soy, sugarcane etc. Example- Bio ethanol and biodiesel
  • Second Generation Biofuels (2G): Also known as advanced biofuels, these fuels feed on biomass involving dry plant matter, wood etc. Example- Ethanol, bio CNG
  • Third Generation Biofuels (3G): 3G bio fuels rely on energy crops such as algae as its energy source. The algae are cultured to act as a low-cost, high-energy and entirely renewable feedstock.
  • Fourth Generation Biofuels (4G): These fuels rely on Biomass materials that absorb CO2 while growing. They are then converted into fuel thereby ensuring sustainable energy while also capturing and storing CO2.

Salient Features of the Policy

  • Categorization of biofuels into Basic, advance, 3G and 4G Biofuels.
  • Extended Scope of Raw Material: For ethanol production, use of materials having sugar content like sugarcane, sweet sorghum as well as starch containing materials like corn, damaged food grains, rotten potatoes has been allowed even if it is deemed unfit for human consumption.
  • Use of Surplus Food Grains, for the production of ethanol which is to be blended with petrol, has been approved.
  • Viability Gap Funding Scheme as well as tax incentives have been provided for setting up 2G Ethanol Refineries.
  • Setting up of New Supply Chain Mechanisms, Biodiesel production from non-edible oilseeds, used cooking oil, short gestation crops has been encouraged.
  • Responsibilities of all the concerned Ministries/Departments regarding bio fuel production have been specified.

India’s 1st Biofuel Plant in Odisha

Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. (BPCL) will complete commissioning of its second generation (2G) ethanol bio-refinery at Baulsingha village in Bargarh District of Odisha by 2020. This will be the first bio-fuel plant in the country where ethanol will be produced from rice straw. The refinery will have a capacity to produce 3 crore litres of fuel grade ethanol per year. Increasing bio fuel production in India is in line with India’s pledge in Paris Agreement to draw 175 Giga Watts of power from renewable sources.

International Conference on Sustainable Bio Fuels 2018

The International Conference on Sustainable Biofuels was jointly organized by Department of Biotechnology, Govt. of India on behalf of Mission Innovation and Bio future Platform at New Delhi. Sustainable Biofuel is one of the Seven Mission Innovation Challenges and India co-leads in this sector along with other countries like Brazil, Canada and China. Mission Innovation (MI) is a global initiative of 22 countries and the European Union to dramatically accelerate innovations in clean energy.

Seven Mission Innovation Challenges include:

  1. Smart Grids Innovation – Enable future grids that are powered by affordable, reliable, decentralised renewable electricity systems
  2. Off-Grid Access to Electricity Innovation– Develop systems that enable off-grid households and communities to access affordable and reliable renewable electricity
  3. Carbon Capture Innovation– Enable near-zero CO2 emissions from power plants and carbon intensive industries
  4. Sustainable Biofuels Innovation– Develop ways to produce, at scale, widely affordable, advanced biofuels for transportation and industrial applications
  5. Converting Sunlight Innovation– Discover affordable ways to convert sunlight into storable solar fuels
  6. Clean Energy Materials Innovation– Accelerate the exploration, discovery and use of new high-performing, low-cost clean energy materials
  7. Affordable Heating and Cooling of Buildings Innovation– Make low-carbon heating and cooling affordable to everyone

Benefits in Biofuel Production

  • Reduces import dependency
  • Cleaner environment by decreasing CO2 emissions as well as the practise of crop burning
  • Health benefits: Used cooking oil is a potential feedstock for biodiesel and will prevent diversion of used cooking oil in the food industry.
  • Ensures Municipal Solid Waste Management
  • Increase infrastructural investment in rural areas as setting up of 2G bio refineries is highly capital intensive.
  • Spur employment generation as Biofuel production promotes village level entrepreneurs and supply chain management.
  • Provides additional income to farmers

Challenges in Biofuel Production

  • Lack of access to green bonds to private sector hampering their finances
  • Lack of cohesive support from Central to local level.
  • To create a requisite supply chain infrastructure that efficiently finds the source and transports low value biomass to the refineries.
  • Lack of open and transparent government policies with respect to procurement, storage and distribution of bio mass.
  • Setting up bio refineries can be capital intensive

Way Forward

  • Realize the potential of waste generated each year in India which could be converted to wealth
  • Formalize the urban and rural waste management system and ensure benefits to the workers involved.
  • Increase awareness and remove stigma associated with people collecting waste
  • Employ high tech waste collection systems during urban planning to provide dignity of labour
  • Convergence of schemes implemented in Rural Sector to retain youth in this critical sector
  • Encourage Start-ups and women led SHGs working in the bio fuel sector