A renewable energy revolution, rooted in agriculture

Source: The post is based on an article A renewable energy revolution, rooted in agriculture” published in The Hindu on 26th October 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Environment

Relevance: efforts needed to tackle stubble burning

News: A private company has established first bio-energy plant in Sangrur district of Punjab. The plant will produce Compressed Bio Gas (CBG) from paddy straw.

This will eventually provide the solution to stubble burning in Punjab and will convert agricultural waste into useful products.

The government has also taken various steps to tackle stubble burning.

What are the efforts taken by the government to tackle stubble burning?

The Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) had developed a framework for the effective prevention and control of stubble burning.

The framework includes both in-situ and ex-situ crop management.

In-situ management includes mixing paddy straw and stubble in the soil using heavy machinery. This machinery is subsidized and supported by crop residue management (CRM) Scheme of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.

Ex-situ CRM efforts include the use of paddy straw for biomass power projects and burning in thermal power plants, as feedstock for 2G ethanol plants, feed stock in CBG plants, fuel in industrial boilers, etc.

Further measures are also taken to ban stubble burning, monitor it and generate awareness.

However, the measures have been not enough to tackle the burning issues and crop residue burning is spreading even to rabi crops and the rest of the country.

What were the recommendations of FAO?

Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) suggested to develop a crop residue supply chain in Punjab that can allow the collection, storage and final use of rice straw for other productive services.

This would reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by about 9.7 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent and around 66,000 tonnes of PM2.5.

Further, farmers can expect to earn between ₹550 and ₹1,500 per ton of rice straw sold depending on market conditions.

A techno-economic assessment of energy technologies suggested that rice straw can be cost-effective for producing CBG and pellets.

These pellets can be used in thermal power plants as a substitute of coal and CBG as a transport fuel.

What is the target set under SATAT scheme?

The Government of India has set a 5% CBG production target under Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT) scheme. This target can be achieved with 30% of rice straw produced in Panjab.

The plant setup by Verbio India Private Limited in Punjab will use one lakh tonnes of paddy straw produced from approximately 16,000 hectares of paddy fields.

This will reduce up to 1.5 lakh tonnes of CO2 emissions per year and also provide employment opportunities in Punjab.

What are the benefits of SATAT scheme?

It will increase local entrepreneurship, increase farmers’ income and reduce open burning of rice straw.

The paddy straw from one acre of crop can yield energy output (CBG) worth more than ₹17,000. It is an extra 30% income for a farmer.

The fermented organic manure from the plant (CBG) will be useful as compost to replenish soils heavily depleted of organic matter and b) reduce dependence on chemical fertilizers.

Therefore, this initiative is an example of a ‘wealth from waste’ approach and circular economy.

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