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Business Recorder: Bringing biomass into the energy mix?



The crackling sound and the comforting glow of the traditional log fire can come to the industrial fore as a promising renewable resource. Biomass, derived from biological sources like wood, agricultural waste, plants, is the fourth largest energy resource after coal, oil and natural gas and the largest renewable option the world has.

In sharp contrast to domestic situation, the world has experienced marvelous transformation in the energy mix, policies and investments in recent years so much so that the perception at times lags far behind the actual status. Biomass is already widely being used for heating and electricity generation in most of the Europe.

A recent report by Bain & Company, an international consultancy, forecasted that global demand for biomass will grow at average rate of nine percent till 2020. It also shows how inimitably the low-carbon option qualifies to meet greater expectations.

This form of renewable resource provides stable energy unlike other sources that are dependant on daylight and weather. With carbon reduction targets worldwide and the domestic conventional energy sources in perils, biomass can be the key: widely and constantly available compared to wind and solar.

Fortunately in the local setup, biomass has a decentralised availability as Pakistan has a large agricultural and livestock sector producing copious amounts of the same in the form of agriculture and crop residues like bagasse, rice husk, municipal solid waste ,animal residue, poultry litter etc.

Also, some preliminary studies estimate that the country has the potential to generate around 3000 - 4000 mega watt of electricity through sugar mills that produce around 50-55 million tons annually.

Moreover, some estimates also suggest that the urban areas generate around 50,000 to 55,000 tons of solid waste daily, while the agricultural lands produce above 200,000 and one million ton of crop residue and manure respectively.

However, it is not just the availability, the reliance on biomass as a significant energy resource requires a well-knit supply chain. Moreover, worldwide biomass is still a subsidy game. In the domestic industry, the lack is seen on the policy front with focus limited to only solar and wind energy.