The Asian region has been experiencing the fastest economic growth in the world, which in turn leads to rising energy consumption patterns that approach those of industrialized countries as well as to increasing environmental pressure. The main challenge facing the region's energy sector is how to continue to provide sustainable services for economic growth without jeopardizing long-term prosperity. Hence, the quest for alternative solutions, such as exploring the full potential of biomass energy, has been growing in various degrees and extent in different countries in Asia
Amid the region's limited land and rapid population growth, however, biomass production for energy must not compete with food production. Utmost consideration must be placed on the efficacy, safety and cost-efficiency of biomass production for biofuel and in keeping a balance between energy production and food production. Likewise, the use of agricultural wastes for biomass conversion to energy, especially in many developing countries in Asia, must be explored fully to benefit the region's mostly agricultural producing countries that generate tremendous amount of agricultural wastes.
Aiming to provide a forum for the sharing and exchange of information and experiences among experts in Asia, FFTC in cooperation with the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD) organized the international workshop on Sustainable utilization of biomass and other organic wastes as renewable energy sources and for agricultural and industrial uses held in Tagaytay City, Philippines on November 24-28, 2008. Attended by 14 international experts from Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines and about 30 local participants, the overall goal of the workshop was to promote a better understanding of the importance of biomass and other organic wastes as alternative sources of energy for the future, while keeping a balance between energy production and food production
The activity also sought to explore more fully the use of agricultural, municipal and industrial wastes for biomass conversion to energy and other uses. The activity brought attention to the recent rapid growth of the food industry in the region, which has been turning out huge volumes of food wastes, from manufacture, preparation and processing, and post-consumer consumption. Putting food wastes to great use as sources of biofuel, compost, and for other industrial uses will not only promote sustainable waste management but also environmentally friendly and clean and green technologies as well. All these were envisioned to address the need for alternative sources of energy and clean technologies for environmental sustainability.
Bioenergy, particularly from woodfuels and agricultural residues, is the dominant bioenergy source in many developing countries in Asia, with the region accounting for the highest consumption of wood and other bioenergy sources in the world. Biomass is mainly used for cooking and space heating in households, but is also the main fuel for various heating applications in millions of small, medium and micro enterprises across the region.
Some countries in the region, however, are now in the forefront of modernizing bioenergy. These include efficient use of biomass for large-scale industrial heating, power generation, and co-generation. Efforts are also geared toward the commercialization of technologies such as improved charcoal production, biogas/biofuel production, and gasification to make biomass conversion into bioenergy more efficient, clean and convenient. Available technologies on biomass conversion ranged from simple to sophisticated. However, experts emphasized the need to gather more data on the economic and social dimensions of technologies presented during the workshop. They also pointed out the importance of improving the efficiency of converting biomass to bioenergy and the sufficiency of biomass as materials for conversion or recycling.
Moreover, the experts agreed that government programs should ensure a balance between energy production and food production. In addition, government incentives and policy advocacies are necessary to advance R&D initiatives on bioenergy. With the unstable price of fossil fuels and the growing demand for energy, governments must realize the need to invest on alternative clean energy.
One innovative technique presented during the workshop was recycling and converting used vegetable oils into biodiesel. Participants had the opportunity to visit a project in Makati City, Philippines, where biodiesel from food waste such as used oil from fast food chains, is processed and used by law enforcement patrol car units in their field operations.
Impact on food security is one of the core social factors to be considered in bioenergy development, as expressed by the workshop participants. Issues on bioenergy and biofuel development are drawing much attention because of global concerns following high energy prices, environmental degradation, sustainability of current energy systems and the competition of food crops versus energy crops. A careful consideration and understanding of these and other factors and their linkages to bioenergy development must be carried out at local, national and international levels.
Access to adequate and affordable energy is one of the basic requirements for guaranteeing the well-being and development of rural populations on a sustainable basis. During the workshop, a protocol for the production of biomethanol using forage grasses, trees, and crop residues was presented emphasizing the necessity to avoid competition with food production. Also, improving the quality and purity of biogas produced from biomass greatly increases its efficacy as biofuel, thus reducing further the food-energy competition. The innovations and enhancement of energy-converting technologies have a stabilizing effect on the balance between food and energy security.
Some of the important considerations in the use of biomass for energy as identified by the experts during the workshop include: economic, social and environmental dimensions of bioenergy development and use; government planning, programming and policy concerns for bioenergy development; and information and technology transfer from biomass technology formulators to the users.
Bioenergy is economically sustainable only if it is financially viable after all direct and indirect impacts have been accounted for. Policies can promote economic sustainability of bioenergy by rewarding those technologies and systems that perform well in terms of social and environmental impacts, such as reduction in net greenhouse gas (GHG). By stimulating innovation and improving productivity over time, performance-based policies can promote dynamic efficiency. This is essential if the bioenergy sector is to remain economically sustainable over time and bring economic opportunities especially to those in the agricultural sector.
A wide array of initiatives toward enhancement of existing technologies and innovations were presented pertaining to the increase in heating quality of biofuels as well as more efficiently designed equipment, such as:
In further promoting sustainable bioenergy development, the workshop participants identified major areas that require particular attention from the agriculture, forestry and rural development sectors in the Asian region. One of these is the need for more aggressive technology transfer initiatives both at the national and regional levels through information and communication campaigns and activities like seminars and workshops. In the search for renewable energy, it is likewise important to promote the production of second-generation biofuels, which has the potential to provide a larger proportion of fuel supply sustainably, affordably, and with greater environmental benefits. Second generation biofuel processes extend the amount of biofuel that can be produced sustainably by using biomass comprised of residual non-food parts of crops, as well as other crops that are not used for food purposes (non-food crops) such as switch grass and jatropha, and also industry and food wastes.
There is also a need to apply the integrated approach in exploring renewable energy sources, such as the integrated system of biomass and waste utilization for various products, in order to achieve sustainability. Lastly, public enterprises must be encouraged to actively participate in programs on biomass conversion into energy.
Held in Tagaytay, Philippines, November 24-28, 2008
No. of participating countries: 6 (Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan ROC, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam)
No. of papers presented: 12
No. of participants: 12 speakers and about 30 local participants/organizers
Co-sponsor: Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD)
For further information, contact:
Dr. Hideo Imai, FFTC Deputy Director
Figure 1 Japan's Norin Green No. 1, a test plant for biomethanol
Figure 2 Wastewater treatment and biogas production facilities from animal manure at the Livestock Research Institute (LRI), Taiwan ROC.
Figure 3 Biodiesel bus of the Nagasaki Institute of Applied Science, Japan.
Figure 4 (Photo below) Workshop participants, led by FFTC Director Dr. Jen-Chyuan Lee (3rd from right), visit the biodiesel production plant of the Makati City Central Police Station, Philippines. Engr. Roel John Judilla (extreme right) of the Mapua Institute of Technology (MIT) demonstrates the production of an economical blend of diesel and used vegetable oil that fuels patrol cars in the city.
Download the PDF. of this document, 1,602,444 bytes (1.53 MB).