Millions of households in rural India still depend on wood as primary energy source for cooking as cleaner fuels are not available or unaffordable to many people. Average wood consumption per household is about five kilograms per day, and this poses a serious threat to the region’s forests and woodlands. Globally, the loss of forest cover results in increased greenhouse gas emissions, and is a significant contributor to climate change.
Collecting firewood, which is traditionally a woman’s or child’s task, is extremely time and labor intensive, leaving little time for school and other daily tasks. Furthermore, as the forest recedes further from residential areas, wood collection becomes an increasingly labor intensive task.
This project is developed by First Climate and Indian NGO INSEDA (Integrated Sustainable Energy and Ecological Development Association) and provides a sustainable solution to these problems. More than 4,000 households are provided with their own biogas plant to utilize the free and sustainable energy contained in their animals’ excrement. The biogas is used for cooking, household lighting and water boiling. Water is often boiled as a purification measure, preventing the spread of waterborne diseases.
Technology brief - how it works
Household-sized biogas plants reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the non-sustainable use of biomass-based fuel. While wood is generally considered a carbon neutral fuel, it is a net emissions source if it is harvested faster than it can be replenished. In the project host states of Kerala and Madhya Pradesh, only 5-10% of firewood is from sustainable sources, i.e. truly carbon neutral. Biogas is created through a process of anaerobic digestion, whereby microorganisms break down biodegradable materials under oxygen-free conditions. To generate biogas, biomass such as animal waste is mixed with water and then fed into the plant where it is digested over a period of about 8 weeks. The gas is extracted via a valve located in the roof of the digestion tank. Constructed underground, the digester can operate for more than 20 years. The plants are built through locally available materials and labor, thus generating additional employment opportunities.
Economic: The project supports households whose average monthly income ranges between 10 and 20 USD per month. Utilizing biogas from livestock waste helps families to save money that can be spent otherwise.
Social: Traditionally, many households in rural India depend on wood for cooking. Collecting firewood is a very time-consuming task and an onerous burden that is often performed by women or children. Reducing this workload improves children’s access to education, as well as the conditions for parental care and support.
Health: The project improves living conditions by reducing hazardous wood smoke from traditional indoor stoves. The fumes are known to cause eye infections and respiratory diseases such as asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis and emphysema. These diseases are particularly common among both women and children, who have the most exposure to the smoke. Biogas is a clean and safe source of energy helps to prevent further spreading of those illnesses.
Environment: The project reduces the dependency on wood as a fuel source. Slowing deforestation yields direct benefits like reduced soil erosion, conservation of natural habitats, biodiversity protection, and climate change mitigation. Employment: The project creates employment and income through the construction and maintenance of biogas digesters. Local people are trained and employed for example as masons.
- Total emission reductions: 20,000 t CO2 e p.a.
- India is the Worlds’ No 1 consumer of fuel wood and biomass for energy
- Number of Households benefited by the project: 4,265
- Number of people affected: approx. 20,000
- Total Capacity of the biodigesters: >11,300 m3
- Total amount of cow dung used to run all plants: 283 t per day
- Annual Savings of fire wood/biomass: 15,000 tons
- Number of Jobs created: more than 150