Opinion

Tapping energy from waste

| | Updated on: Nov 11, 2021
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This energy is clean and lucrative for investors in the sector

The world is warming mainly because of fossil fuel emissions. Extreme weather events linked to climate change — including heatwaves, floods and forest fires — are intensifying. The past decade was the warmest on record, and governments worldwide agree urgent collective action is needed.

As energy and waste are two of India’s biggest challenges, the country is gearing up by adopting newer technologies to convert waste into clean and green energy that would help in immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Waste generation is an acute problem, arising from the lack of proper waste management/processing systems. A lot of organic and non-organic wastes that get generated find their way into the soil and water bodies without proper treatment, causing severe environment and health hazards.

Alarming situation

The situation in India is alarming as the country produces 62 million tonnes of waste annually, of which, 20 per cent is treated and 40 per cent is used for land-filling. However, the problems caused by solid wastes can be significantly mitigated through the adoption of environment-friendly waste-to-energy technologies that will allow treatment and processing of wastes before or after their disposal.

Energy generated from waste is clean and reliable, thus reducing the dependence on fossil fuels.

The technology treats waste to recover energy in CBG/CNG, manure, fuel such as high-speed diesel, bio-gas, and electricity.

Energy is the driving force behind every country’s economy, whether developed or developing. Over 80 per cent of the world’s energy requirements are generated through fossil fuel including coal, oil and natural gas which are limited in availability. Oil and gas will be exhausted in the next 50 years and coal, in about 115 years.

Going by the numbers, India imports about 75 per cent of its oil and gas requirements; it is the third largest importer of oil and fourth largest importer of gas. In the light of this, there is a major push towards a gas-based economy. To fill in the demand, the share of environment-friendly fuel in the energy basket is likely to be increased from 6.2 per cent to 15 per cent by 2030.

Also, initiatives like the Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT) by the government are aimed at promoting compressed biogas as an alternative, green transport fuel.

Despite solid waste generation of 1.19 lakh tonne/day and a favourable climate for the sector, there are very few waste-to-energy plants.

In addition to energy generation, such plants will benefit investors looking to enter the sector. Also, buying a franchise resale or investing in franchise opportunities will help investors get a secured income. If the right technology is employed with optimal processes and all components of waste are used to derive value, waste-to-energy could be a profitable business in the renewable energy sector.

Furthermore, success in solid waste management could lead to business opportunities in sewage, industrial and hazardous waste. Through the technology used for energy recovery, eco-friendly and “green” co-products such as charcoal, compost, nutrient rich digestive (a fertiliser) or bio-oil can be obtained.

Besides, with distributed waste management and waste-to-energy becoming important priorities, opportunities exist for companies to provide support services like turnkey solutions. In addition, waste-to-energy opportunities exist not just in India but all over the world. Thus, there could be significant expansion possibilities for Indian companies, especially into other Asian countries. In Asia-Pacific, there is a burgeoning market for renewable energy.

Also, the government of India is providing significant incentives for waste-to-energy projects, in the form of capital subsidies, income tax, GST, land, etc. The Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources (MNES) gets the detailed project reports appraised by financial institutions to ensure that the project is feasible, viable and sustainable.

The country needs to continue to reassure businesses and more players to enter this space to cut down the quantity of wastes, produce significant quantities of energy from them, and consciously reduce pollution of water and air.

The writer is Founder and Chairman, NexGen Energia Ltd

Published on November 12, 2021

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