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Biomass Appeals in the Wake of India’s Power Crisis

By Anna Simet | August 09, 2012

The first piece I wrote for Biomass Magazine’s Research & Technology Blog was about the potential of biomass power in India. Though that was only a couple of months ago, it’s time to revisit the topic.

As I’m sure most of you know, India has recently been facing some extreme energy challenges. Being described as one of the worst black outs in history, more than 620 million—amazingly, about twice the population of the U.S.—were affected by the collapse of three regional grids during the end of July.

An article I read in the Huffington Post described the current situation best, stating that the blackout “has raised serious concerns about India's outdated infrastructure and the government's inability to meet its huge appetite for energy as the country aspires to become a regional economic superpower.”

Simply said, India currently cannot meet the rocketing demands for electricity in the country. To give you a little more perspective, one out of every three households doesn’t even have power.

The Indian Power Minister is blaming the blackout on states that are using more power than they are supposed to, and said publicly that he thinks states that overdrew their power should be punished by a power supply cut-off. Now who would really suffer from that, and would it teach lessons, or would it provoke anger?

Instead of spending time pointing fingers, it would be better to get moving as soon as possible on a plan to generate more power. I’m not the only one with that mindset, because as the Indian Times reports, private players are now heavily pursuing previously proposed biomass energy projects. That’s not only because of the blackout, but because as I mentioned several weeks ago, India is currently facing a coal shortage, and it has a whole lot of biomass.

To give you just one example, the government of the state of Haryana is stepping up on its own, having lately signed Memorandum of Understandings for five biomass power projects of roughly 50 MW. These will all use agricultural residue, which is plentiful in the state. Estimated biomass power potential there is estimated to be around 1,000 MW, according to the Haryana Renewable Energy Department.

I’m guessing the scenario in India will end up being much like it is in the U.S., where states have step up individually and figure out their own energy goals, and some will fare much better than others. It appears as though biomass technology makes perfect sense in India, and I look forward to watching how things pan out in the wake of this historic blackout.