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The significance of biomass in a circular economy

Ministry of Power revised the policy on biomass thus obligating the thermal power plants to increase the use of biomass pellets. The significance of biomass in a circular economy

Why in news? Recently, Ministry of Power revised the policy on biomass thus obligating the thermal power plants to increase the use of biomass pellets. The significance of biomass in circular economy is the most needed.

The significance of biomass in a circular economy:

Definition of Circular Economy: Circular economy is based on two principles: maximize the use of materials in products and minimize the loss of service over time.

Objectives: It aims to avoid unsustainable resource consumption, product redundancy, waste, and pollution.

EU Effort: In the European Union (EU), policies promoting renewable energy and bio-based products play a crucial role in fostering a circular economy.

China’s Approach: China also has strong circular economy ambitions, with a focus on industrial development and the establishment of “eco-parks.”

Industrial Symbiosis: Circular economy often involves industrial symbiosis, where waste from one operation becomes the input for another.

Value Chain Perspective: To succeed in implementing a circular economy, it’s essential to consider material flows across the entire value chain.

End-of-Life Management: The materials used in products impact suitable end-of-life waste management options.

Ellen MacArthur Foundation: The “butterfly” infographic illustrates recirculating material flows in a circular economy, emphasizing the importance of material reuse.

Circular Bioeconomy: The term “circular bioeconomy” integrates bioeconomy initiatives into circularity policies, but there’s a need to resolve policy conflicts.

Biorefineries: Misconceptions about biorefineries, such as limiting them to low-value waste, hinder the development of a bio-based economy.

International Cooperation: Achieving a circular economy requires collaboration among all stakeholders to eliminate waste without value.

Sustainability Comparison: Circular economy goals are more concrete than “sustainability” and are less open to interpretation.

Key Challenges:

Nitrogen fertilizer and plastics are the largest outputs that require attention in a circular economy due to waste scale and resource exhaustion risks.

Biomass: Biomass, derived from plants and animals, serves as an alternative organic feedstock to crude oil and natural gas.

UN Statistics: The United Nations recorded significant production of crops and forestry products, emphasizing the availability of biomass feedstocks.

Renewable Energy: Biomass is used for renewable energy, making it a critical component in the transition to circular economy practices.

Resource Efficiency: Circular economy prioritizes efficient use of resources, emphasizing recycling, refurbishing, and remanufacturing to extend product life.

Economic Benefits: It’s not just an environmental concept; a circular economy can yield economic benefits through reduced waste management costs and job creation.

Consumer Behavior: Consumer behavior plays a crucial role in achieving circularity by choosing sustainable and durable products.

Technological Innovation: Innovation in materials, manufacturing, and waste management technologies is essential for circular economy success.

Education and Awareness: Public awareness and education campaigns are important for fostering a culture of sustainability and circularity.

Government Regulations: Governments can drive circular economy adoption through regulations, incentives, and standards.

Product Design: Circular design principles focus on creating products that are easy to disassemble, repair, and recycle.

Collaborative Business Models: Sharing and subscription-based models, like car-sharing and renting, promote resource sharing and circularity.

Waste Hierarchy: Circular economy follows a waste hierarchy, prioritizing prevention, reduction, reuse, recycling, and energy recovery.

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR): EPR policies hold manufacturers responsible for the end-of-life disposal of their products, encouraging design for recycling.

Important Highlights:

  • Circular economy aims to maximize material use and minimize waste and pollution.
  • EU and China have specific policies to promote circularity.
  • Industrial symbiosis and considering the entire value chain are essential.
  • Misconceptions about biorefineries need resolution for circular bioeconomy.
  • Collaboration is crucial for eliminating waste without value.
  • Circular economy goals are more concrete than sustainability.
  • Nitrogen fertilizer and plastics are major challenges.
  • Biomass is a key alternative to crude oil and natural gas.
  • UN data highlights the abundance of biomass feedstocks.
  • Circular economy promotes resource efficiency and economic benefits.
  • Consumer choices, technological innovation, and education are essential.
  • Government regulations and circular design principles drive circularity.
  • Collaborative business models and EPR policies play significant roles.
  • Circular supply chains aim for continuous material reuse.
  • Implementation challenges include cultural resistance and infrastructure limitations.

What are biomass pellets?

  • Biomass pellets are any materials can burn.
  • It includes
    • Agricultural waste such as crop stalk and straw material, rice husk, cotton stalk, coffee husk, alfalfa straw, coconut shell, palm shell, sugarcane bagasse.
    • Forestry residue such as sawmill residue, branches, bark, leaves.
    • Solid waste such as junk paper, waste plastic, cardboard.

What is the Biomass Co-firing Policy about?

  • Biomass co-firing is a method for efficiently and cleanly converting biomass to electricity by adding biomass as a partial substitute fuel in high-efficiency coal boilers.

Biomass Co-firing Policy

  • Aim -To meet India’s renewable energy targets and lowering greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector.
  • Revised policy 2021 -Mandates the use of 5% biomass pellets made primarily of agro-residue along with coal in thermal power plants with effect from 1 year from the date of issue of the policy.
  • Thermal power plants shall increase the usage to 7% with effect from 2 years after the date of issuance of this policy.
  • Cutting coal supply -Government is considering cutting coal supply for those thermal power plants that do not comply with the policy on biomass co-firing.

Significance of biomass

  • Enable generation of green electricity
  • Cut down coal consumption
  • Create employment
  • Reduce CO2 emissions and air pollution
  • Help in achieving India’s global commitment towards 45% emission reduction by 2023
  • Cheaper than imported coal and reduce stubble burning
  • Economic alternative for all thermal power plants

Challenges in using biomass

  • Providing a single window for clearances
  • Lack of steady and consistent supply of biomass
  • Varied availability and quality of biomass across India
  • Difficult to store since they attract moisture
  • Lack of infrastructure in transport and storage of biomass
  • The process to retrofitted biomass co-firing equipment is expensive
  • Lack of market for biomass pellets

Measures were taken for promotion of biomass in power plants

  • Pellet manufacturing sector -Being encouraged to bridge the demand-supply gap of biomass pellets.
  •  Financial assistance schemes -For biomass pellet manufacturing units from Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and Central Pollution Control Board.
  • Priority Sector Lending (PSL) -Biomass pellet manufacturing have been included in the priority sector lending.
  • E-Marketplace – The biomass pellets can be procured through the government e-Marketplace by the thermal power plants.
  • SAMARTH (Sustainable Agrarian Mission on use of Agro Residue in Thermal Power Plants) -Provides for co-firing of biomass waste in Thermal Power Plants.
  • Energy Conservation (Amendment) Act 2022 -Specifies that all thermal power plants will have to use renewable fuel sources either as energy or feedstock.

Need of the hour

  • Robust regulatory framework that offers incentives and support for biomass co-firing.
  • Creation of competitive market for biomass in order to ensure equitable pricing and distribution.
  • A framework to support inter-ministerial coordination.
  • The Biomass Co-firing Policy needs to be backed by a strong policy and regulatory framework that provides incentives and support for biomass co-firing.

The significance of biomass in a circular economy

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