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Biomass co-firing in 35 thermal power plants across India has reduced CO2 emissions by 100,000 tons, according to the Ministry of Power.
About 80,525 tons of biomass has been co-fired in 35 thermal power plants with a cumulative capacity of 55,335 MW until July 24, 2022. Fourteen of these plants belong to NTPC and 21 to states and the private sector.
In the financial year 2020-21, only seven power plants in the country had co-fired biomass pellets.
The ministry launched the Sustainable Agrarian Mission on Use of Agro-Residue in Thermal Power Plants (SAMARTH) to help tackle the challenges of stubble burning on Indian farms and the heavy carbon emissions in coal-fired power plants by biomass co-firing.
Co-firing biomass waste in thermal power plants creates income generation opportunities for farmers and small entrepreneurs. Over 40 thermal power plants have floated new tenders for biomass pellet procurement. Biomass pellet tenders for 1.3 million tons have been placed, out of which tenders for 12 million tons of biomass pellets are being awarded currently. Tenders for another 11.5 million tons are in different stages.
As thermal power plants face coal shortages, the significance of biomass has increased. Compared to rising imported coal prices, biomass pellets are available at much lower prices. Co-firing biomass pellets have become an environment-friendly and economically viable option for thermal power plants.
In India, an estimated 750 million tons of biomass are generated yearly. Around 30% of it is surplus, and half of it is consigned to farm fires yearly. Crop residue burning is contributing to carbon emissions and respiratory disorders.
SAMARTH has effectively addressed this challenge to some extent, the ministry said.
The ministry said in May last year that it was setting up a national mission on the use of biomass in coal-powered thermal power plants. The mission’s main objective was to reduce air pollution caused by burning farm stubble.
Last September, the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission ruled that power generated from co-firing of biomass would be considered renewable energy and eligible to meet non-solar renewable purchase obligations.