ROLE OF BIOFUELS IN RURAL ELECTRIFICATION
Dr. H.J. Prabhu, Dept. of Chemical Eng., N.I.T., Trichy.
One of the renewable energy technology options for
electrification of rural area is biodiesel based distributed power
Biomethanation plant and Biomass gasifier, it is an option that is
being developed and evaluated. As diesel engine generator set is
already a large base for backup power, supplementing the grid
supply, substituting with biodiesel as fuel and engine fine tuning can
give this renewable alternative an advantage among these options.
Distributed generation in rural areas based on both nonrenewable
and renewable energy sources and comparison of present options
have been studied recently by TERI and Energy Systems
Engineering Group of I. I. T., Bombay (Mumbai).1-2 The first paper
discusses the experience in renewable energy rural projects and the
second paper reviews the different technological options available for
DG, their current status, evaluation based on cost of generation and
future potential in India. Biodiesel based distributed power generation
is useful in providing power for rural domestic and irrigation needs. It
will substitute diesel and create local employment in villages.
Tree growing, oil extraction and biodiesel production:
The feasibility of using tree borne nonedible oil crops as a
renewable source of liquid fuel is being established under a National
Biodiesel Mission in 2004-07. Scope of biofuel plantations as a rural
livelihood option has been studied and Case Studies for Biodiesel,
Producer gas from Gasifier and Biogas from Biomethanation Plant as
engine fuels to run generators have been made,.3-5 to examine
possibilities of sustainable power for rural areas where these biofuels
can be produced.
Oil from the seeds is collected by use of expellers and through
the chemical process of transesterification, these nonedible oils (e.g.,
Pongamia, Jatropha) are converted to biodiesel. These technologies
can be made accessible to the villages.
No major engine
modifications are needed for diesel engine though modification of
injector system may be developed to enable use of duel fuel / multifuel of gaseous or liquid state. The cost of micro-grid electricity
production from renewable biofuels for a typical rural scale can be
made competitive when all the steps are stabilized with actual
Rural electrical power needs for domestic, village industry and
irrigation purposes constitutes the demand side. For local production
of biodiesel, opportunity cost of required land, silvicultural expenses,
and processing costs should be met within the price that can be
charged for the biodiesel.
With the new Electricity Act (2003) eliminating the earlier licensing
requirements on generation and distribution, decentralized schemes
have far more scope. Assessment of local demand and the cost per
unit of generation for this scale are to be carefully made.
Consider a group of villages that have shortage of power supply
but have some basic infrastructure of the existing state EB grid. The
village consumers, local NGO, the Electricity Regulatory Commission
and experienced IPP company managers may come together to plan
a strategy for rural electrification. An Electric Utility Company for
small scale production and distribution of power may be planned and
Power to meet the demand (e.g., 500kW) is to be generated by
‘Gensets’ that may use economical fuel using the engine tuned to it.
The fuel could be biodiesel, biogas, producer gas, or even petrol,
kerosene and diesel. Besides the utilization of Solar PV, Wind energy
may also be made if suitable. The idea is to produce reasonably
priced electricity from any fuel but preferably from renewable energy
sources. The State Electricity Distribution Company that owns the
infrastructure of electric lines, poles, transformers and so on may be
a partner in the scheme.
To foster corporate, NGO and government cooperation and
partnership, many issues have to be addressed:
a) Efforts should be made to meet the capital costs of the plant
through subsidy, loan on soft terms etc, that are granted by the
Government of India under its Rural development through
For villages that are not electrified,
Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidutikaran Yojana (RGGGVY) provides
90% subsidy. Similar subsidies may be provided to villages that
get less than eight hours of electricity but have potential for
development if the power shortage is overcome and this capital
subsidy can really help the government’s effort in rural
b) Depending upon the fuel used, the cost of power to the
Company may vary. For fixing tariffs, utility company may
approach Electricity Regulatory Commission for a suitable
structure, after discussion with the stakeholders. If the company
use only renewable energy for power generation, then they are
eligible for further soft credit for leasing infrastructure
c) A study has indicated that significant land requirement would be
needed for biodiesel provision in a Indian village if biodiesel
alone has to meet the electricity demand 7. For local production
of biodiesel, in the initial stages, provision of low cost waste
land, NOVOD Board subsidy and advice for tree selection,
silviculture practices, would help. Infrastructure creation for
expelling oil and establishment of chemical process plant and
help with know-how and training are also needed..
1. ‘Enhancing electricity access in rural areas through distributed
Discussion Forum (PDF) Base Paper, based on that authored
by Akanksha Chaurey, Malini Ranganathan and Parimitha
Mohanty, submitted to and under review with Energy Policy
2. ‘Comparison of Options for Distributed electricity Generation in
India’, Rangan Banergi, Energy Policy,34,(2006),101-111
3. ‘Scope for biofuel plantation as a livelihood option, Case study
Development, 2 (1), 65-82.
4. ‘Sustainable biomass power for rural India: Case study of
biomass gasifier for village electrification’, N. H. Ravindranath,
Reddy,Current Science,87,(2004), 932-941
Experience of BAIF’, G.N.S. Reddy, G.V. Hegde, and C.
Doreswamy, BAIF, Pune.
6. Anil. K .Rajavanshi, Director, Nimbkar Agricultural Research
7. ‘Feasibility of
biodiesel for rural electrification in India’,
[DRAFT, June 2000],
Jeffrey L. Rosenblum, Carnegy Mellon University, (now at
Tellus Institute, email@example.com )