May 27, 2024, Monday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Policy on biomass energy needs revision, stakeholders say

The Nepal Weekly
October 24, 2022

In Nepal, production and use of bioenergy based on forest resources is on rise in the later phase.

It was revealed in a study report that National Forum for Advocacy Nepal (NAFAN) in collaboration with Global Forest Coalition and Environmental Paper Network.

The latest bioenergy supply report mentions that use of bioenergy has been increased by threefold since 2000. Till date, the rural areas in Nepal still use firewood, dried cow dung and trashes from agriculture sector. Energy consumption picture shows that nearly 65 per cent of the total fuel consumed in Nepal is contributed by biomass resource.

Currently, there are some 10 biomass energy companies in Nepal producing bio-briquette, pellet etc. based on forest resources and marketing the products. Some of these have done contract with government institutions for biomass collection, use as raw material and begun produce bio-briquette, pellet etc. 

The report also argues that it will not make the biomass collection sustainable, but decrease forest covering as the biomass collection is the collection of grass, leaves, fodder and trees as well. Moreover, after holding wider discussion and consultation the government has been suggested to immediately scrap the Biomass Energy Strategy, 2017 and formulate a new energy policy.

The commer-cialization of traditional bioenergy must be ended thereby ensuring indigenous communities’ rights to forest resources, the report strongly recommends.

Bioenergy is a form of renewable energy, generated from the conversion of biomass into heat, electricity, biogas, and liquid fuels. Biomass is organic matter derived from forestry, agriculture, or waste streams.

According to Bioenergy Europe’s Supply Report 2021, since 2000, the overall use of bioenergy has tripled from 41 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) in 2000 to 117 Mtoe in 2020, with over 70% of that coming from forest biomass, largely in the form of wood pellets. In 2018, the global demand for industrial wood pellets exceeded 52 million tonnes, with the EU and UK being by far the largest pellet consumers in the world with an annual consumption of 27 million tonnes. The market for wood pellets in Asia is also continuing to grow, largely led by South Korea and Japan, and is becoming the driving force of the global pellet market alongside Europe. Between 2012 -2019, the sector saw an annual growth rate of 11.6%, with the highest growth rate in Asia at 49%, followed by Oceania at 30%, according to the World Bioenergy Association. Without urgent policy intervention, this demand is projected to continue to grow over the coming years as countries continue to expand the use of bioenergy to meet increasing energy demands.

Not only is burning forest biomass not carbon neutral, it also actively harms the climate, emitting large quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, as well as emissions from the supply chain and logging industry. It also directly harms forests, threatening biodiversity and climate resilience. Furthermore, it brings harm to people and threatens the rights, interests, lives, livelihoods, and cultural values of Indigenous Peoples, local communities, and women. Nepal has recently sought to capitalise on the growth of the global forest biomass market and take advantage of government policies, largely under the Biomass Energy Strategy 2017, by supporting the expansion of industrial biomass production. This report looks at the development of the forest biomass industry in Nepal and its economic, social, and environmental impacts, specifically on women and forest-dependent communities in Sarlahi district in Southern Nepal.

From the perspective of the bioenergy industry, with 45% of the country under forest cover, Nepal is “rich” in forest biomass. According to government figures, the total above-ground air-dried biomass of trees in the forests of Nepal is equal to 1,159.65 million tonnes—an average of 194.51 tonnes per hectare. According to government calculations, that means around 2.76 million tonnes (Mt) of biomass in the form of pellets are potentially available from forest-based biomass. The government says this includes logging residues (stumps, branches, leaves, defect logs, off-cuts, and sawdust), industrial residues (sawdust, bark, slabs, edging, trimming), and invasive plants and trees.

Nepal has placed an ever greater focus on industrialising its bioenergy production. Through its Biomass Energy Strategy 2017, Nepal has identified forest-based bioenergy, along with hydro, wind, and solar power, as a key element in charting the country’s sustainable energy development and transition to “clean energy solutions.” Under this strategy, the government is promoting the development of industrial forest biomass production. The strategy aims to provide technical and financial assistance for research and development of modern, efficient, and affordable biomass energy technologies and industries. This plan is in direct contradiction to the science and increasing awareness that the industrialisation of the bio-economy is harmful to the climate, nature, and biodiversity, harmful to human rights, and incompatible with a just transition from the fossil fuel economy.  According to Nepal’s second Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on December 8, 2020, the country aims to be net zero by 2050, with transitions to “clean” energies as a key element to achieving that goal. To achieve this, it will expand clean energy generation from approximately 1,400 MW to 15,000 MW by 2030 in the form of mini- and micro-hydro power, solar, wind, and bioenergy. At the same time, it has committed to maintaining 45% of the total area of the country under forest cover (including other wooded land limited to less than 4%), by 2030, as well as manage 50% of Terai and Inner Terai forests and 25% of middle hills and mountain forests sustainably. (By Purna N. Ranjitkar)