Waste to energyConstruction of biogas plants can contribute to energy security
If anything, the ongoing trade blockade has reinforced Nepal’s need for energy security and fuel efficiency. Against this backdrop, Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC), a government body in charge of promoting and developing renewable and alternative energy technologies in the country, has decided to encourage public institutions, municipalities and commercial sectors to build large-scale biogas plants to convert biodegradable waste into energy. Interested institutions can submit proposals to the AEPC and in return, they can receive subsidy and expertise required to build biogas plants. These large-scale biogas plants will use biodegradable waste generated from the kitchens, toilets and other sources such as human waste, solid waste and agriculture residues, among other things, to produce cooking gas or electricity.
This initiative has already drawn the interest of all three-security agencies—Nepal Army, Nepal Police and Armed Police Force—to construct over 500 large-scale biogas plants all over Nepal for their institutional use. The AEPC and the security agencies will be signing an agreement by the end of November. If the scheme becomes a reality, the armed forces could generate energy for cooking purposes through these plants—enough to fill 58,000 Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) cylinders every year.
Biogas production is not a new concept in Nepal. The technology has been in use since the last 60 years and enjoyed much success at the household level in rural areas. More than 300,000 households in the country have built biogas plants using farm manure to produce methane gas for cooking and lighting purposes. But the production of biogas as an alternative to LPG is yet to be explored in urban areas. Regardless, biodegradable municipal waste can easily substitute animal dung, which is used in most of the existing biogas plants in the country, to develop clean energy in the cities. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, everyday about 670 metric tonnes of waste is generated in 58 municipalities across the country. And most of the waste generated in cities is biodegradable. Given this context, the AEPC with support from World Bank has taken up an ambitious target of building 1,200 large-scale biogas plants in urban locations all over the
country by 2017.
Such initiatives taken by the government are undoubtedly commendable, but more needs to be done to convert the ambition into a reality. As the security agencies have come on board with the idea of building their own biogas plants, other government institutions such as the hospitals, universities and even the government offices inside Singha Durbar should take to the necessary steps to build their own biogas plants. Doing so would help city authorities better manage solid waste too. This, coupled with incentives to encourage households in the cities to build small-scale biogas plants for individual use could help reduce Nepal’s dependence on fossil fuels. Hopefully, the urgency shown in exploring alternative energy sources will not be forgotten as soon as the crisis is over.