Biomass utilisation in thermal power plants to help reduce stubble burning in northern states

The national mission on use of biomass in energy production has seen encouraging results with active participation of farmers and biomass pellet makers, according to the union power ministry. The establishment of the Sustainable Agrarian Mission on use of Agro Residue in Thermal Power Plants (SAMARTH) will go a long way in reducing stubble burning by farmers and also reducing air pollution while increasing the income of farmers, says the ministry.

Two farmers’ training and awareness programmes held at Faridabad, Haryana and Nangal, Punjab in October 2021 witnessed active participation by the farmers wherein they were sensitised on negative impact of crop residue burning on the soil productivity and avenues to supplement their income by participating in the value chain of biomass co-firing in TPPs, says a ministry release.
Union power secretary last week chaired the second meeting of steering committee for the Sustainable Agrarian Mission on use of Agro Residue in Thermal Power Plants.
Part of the national mission on use of biomass in energy production, the power secretary reviewed the status of bio-mass co-firing and progress of the actions being taken to promote the co-firing in coal-based thermal power plants in the meeting.
The establishment of the National Mission on Use of Biomass in Thermal Power Plants, will help to reduce stubble burning and also reduce carbon footprint of thermal power plants while increasing the income of farmers. The agro-residue/ biomass earlier considered as a waste product has now begun to produce carbon-neutral electricity. In turn, farmers are getting additional income by selling the stubble/biomass for conversion into torrefied/ non-torrefied biomass pellets. 
Ministry of Power (MoP) has constituted a steering committee under the chairmanship of power secretary for overall monitoring of the mission and to facilitate the mission on inter-ministerial issues/constraints.
The ministry’s policy paper on “Biomass Utilisation for Power Generation through Co-firing in Coal based Power Plants,” issued in October 2021, mandates all thermal power plants in the country to use 5 to 10 per cent biomass along with coal for power production. The policy has started showing promising results.
As of date, approximately 59,000 tonnes of biomass has been co-fired in thermal power plants in the country, while tenders for short term and long term procurement of 12 million tonnes are at different stages of processing. Out of this, the biomass co-fired in the NCR region stands at 21,000 tonnes and tenders floated in the region are for about 5.50 million tonnes. Contracts have already been awarded for more than 1.1 million tonnes of biomass pellets.
NTPC has emerged as a leader in biomass use, having co-fired approximately 58,000 tonnes of biomass, while tendering a total of 10.7 million tonnes over short-term and long-term basis. Among the state governments, Haryana State Genco has been able to co-fire around 550 tonnes of biomass in two of its stations and float tenders worth 1.1 million tonnes. 
Some of the public and private generating companies have also started co-firing small quantities of biomass in Punjab, UP and Maharashtra. The results so far are encouraging and there is still a long way to go before the country can achieve its target of 5-10 per cent co-firing in all plants in the country. The power ministry expects to achieve this with active participation of all central/state Gencos and independent power producers (IPPs).
The government’s efforts in transforming the problem of stubble burning into a solution of power production with lower carbon footprints, would continue to bear fruit with the active participation of farmers, pellet manufacturers and power plants in the country. This would yield additional income for farmers, whilw also playing a big role in achieving clean energy transition of the country.