Pathways for Clean Bio Energy in Rural India: Present Challenges and Future Scenarios


Dhanraj A. Patil

Head, Department of Sociology, Walchand College of Arts and Science, Solapur, Maharashtra, India

*Corresponding Author Email:



The mission of achieving universal access to clean energy is still a crucial distant ambition particularly amongst the developing nations. However, progressive countries like India has a substantial concern in tumbling its reliance on fossil fuels and encouraging the use of renewable energy options to provide access to clean energy. India presents a favourable setting for accelerating the use and internalisation of bioenergy sources towards the path of clean energy for all. Almost 25 % of India’s energy arrives from bio resources, predominantly nearly 70 % of rural inhabitants relied on biomass resources to congregate their everyday energy requirements. In particularly, biogas is one of the emerging bioenergy resources in rural India. This study analyses present challenges and future scenarios in the context of biogas by using futures methods. The policy findings of this study not only demonstrate crucial drivers but will also help the government to achieve its ambitious mission clean energy for all.


KEYWORDS: Clean energy, Bioenergy, Biogas, Futures methods, Rural India.




The father of India, Mahatma Gandhi envisaged a method of entrusted, self-sufficient and locally relevant models of development for sustaining the needs of local masses especially at rural societies. Energy is one of the basic and fundamental human needs. Worldwide energy consumption and demand are growing up since past 50 years. Numbers of countries in the world including India are currently passing through the critical phase of population explosion and the growing population demands more energy inputs. The segregation between rural and urban India in terms of their access to energy correspondingly energy poverty is reasonably harsh. According to Census 2011, 80.7 million households in India live without electricity and of these about 75 million households are in rural areas1.


In such a context from a Gandhian perspective the rural India needs to fulfil their energy needs from the local environment. Biogas is a viable alternative for supplying clean and sustainable energy at rural India where around 70% of population is dependent on bioenergy resources2. Over the years, the country has been excessively dependent on Middle East countries for oil imports. With the unpredictable oil prices in the global market, India is keen on developing other alternatives for generating fuel. However, the global initiatives on environment have common agreements on climate change and clean energy. For this reason, to cope up with climate change issues clean energy has become top priority among the civilised nations. India is among the oldest civilizations in the world and has had equal stakes in the international agreements on sustainable environment. Amongst the feasible alternatives like wind and solar power, biogas is also seen as a viable option for generating renewable energy mainly at rural areas. Biogas in India is being produced using degradable organic waste like cattle dung (gobar), poultry waste, kitchen waste as raw material in a plant. The waste generated is also used as bio-fertilizer. The compressed biogas can be used as substitute not only for liquid petroleum gas (LPG) but also for electricity generation, transportation. Bio-fertilizer increases the natural fertility of the soil with its high macro and micro nutrients content and also give benefits to the farmers with its easy to applied application 3.  India is traditionally using biogas since long time. However, it has some fundamental challenges which are hindering its growth and sustainability. Therefore, considering the upcoming prospects of biogas energy sector the present paper aims to explore present challenges and offers future scenarios from futures methodological framework.



The data applied in this article is a part of horizon scanning method based on the data procured from extensive document review process and in-depth interviews of representative stakeholders. In all fifteen key stakeholders interviews have been conducted centred on six purposively selected drivers. The analysis has been made to foresee the future scenario of biogas energy in Indian context by considering current challenges. This futures exercise has been relied on six purposively selected drivers. The paper covers six major groups of scenarios emerging from the data and a few of emerging signals.



This sub-section offers an analytical exercise from futures perspective. The results derived from the horizon scanning method are discussed herein with an aim to offer future scenarios for the sustainability of biogas projects in India and will certainly assist for policy making.


Table.1: Current Challenges and Future Scenarios of Biogas Energy in India


Present Challenges

Future Scenarios

1.Use and application

i. The use of bio-gas is largely limited to the rural areas of India and restricted to domestic purpose mainly for coking.




ii.The urban India is lacking bio-gas application.

i.To cope up with this challenge decentralization of bio energy policy has to be implemented with the active involvement of rural NGO’s and Women’s Self Help Groups.

ii.Although the use of biogas in the production of electricity is relatively a new concept to be adopted in India, however it is quickly picking up pace with the help of new(nano) technology.

ii.For future prospect of bio-energy in urban area studies 4-5. shows that by using organic waste treatment plants and sewage treatment centres in most cities even the solid municipal waste can be treated to generate biogas for the production of electricity.

Industries which generate liquid and solid organic waste are installing gas engines and waste digesters for generating power.


i.Age old technology, lacks new innovations; durability of bio-gas plant is relatively low (3 to 5 years); hence people are reluctant to install; lack of awareness among the masses mainly (Rural folk) about the upcoming new innovative technology alternatives.

i.The smart technological innovations are coming up which reduces the time, space and cost. However, increases the efficiency and durability of bio gas plant from 3-5 years to 12 years. The forthcoming technological innovations are more people friendly.

3.Government Subsidies and policy for growth

i.At present the subsidies are limited and restricted to only biogas plants for coking in rural areas.


ii.Due to present policy the growth of biogas has been limited to single sector (rural coking) only. It lacks new avenue’s.

i.In future funds can be made available for non-coking purposes and to be extended to urban areas for domestic and industrial purposes. Urban model of community/cooperative based biogas initiatives can play an effective role as future energy sources.

ii.The growth of Biogas based renewable energy will be based on its future applications other than the conventional that is for cooking, government has to evolve new ways such as: electricity generation, bio based natural gas for vehicle fuel; and as an enriched bio-manure to be used as a effective alternative for chemical fertilizers.

4.Private sector involvement

i.Since LPG is available in local markets private sector investors are not much keen for investment in biogas plants. But LPG is non renewable it is not sustainable. They also lack Central Finance Assistance (CFA) for this.

i. Involvement of private sector in future can be increased by linking the projects to agro based industries in rural India like Suguar, Milk and Poultry factories at massive scale. Likewise, FDI, Make in India and start up Grant can also be future viable options for private sector.

5.Maintance issues

i.It is observed that majority of biogas plants are after few years not functional at domestic and community level due to technical and social aspects.

i. For future technical sustainability concurrent maintenance committee at local level and use of advanced durable gadgets can be a viable option.

However, community ownership of such biogas projects could be a prime driver for sustainability as seen in many other community projects.

6.Social issues

i.The expansion of biogas energy is lagging behind as compare to other RE projects in India due to lack of scientific knowledge, popularity, false hypothesis, high expectations etc

i.for future coping strategies effective social marketing strategies with targeted intervention along with Local-level Biogas Training & Awareness Centers (LBTAC) with the help of CBO’s and Panchayats (village Councils); National Service Scheme (NSS) can be a viable option.



i. Use and application:

Although (biogas) system was developed in the UK and Germany in the 1900s for the treatments of urban sewage, its use is yet limited to India’s vast rural area and that of only for cooking purposes. This trend can certainly hamper its growth and sustainability. Therefore, from futures viewpoint three alternative scenarios are viable: i) decentralization at rural areas in terms of its reach and applicability ii) expansion at India’s urban areas with robust incentives at both community and industrial level iii). Involvement of NGO’s, CBO’s and local self government can be an effective alternative.


ii. Technology:

There are challenges with present technology related to cost, size, and importantly its durability. The old technology of biogas is of deenbandhu model made by cement biogas plant. Their warranty is up to 5 years, but they start to crack within 3 years only. However, new innovative technologies are coming which are more economical and hassle free than the old versions. If government gives financial assistance to such cost effective and durable models then its applicability can be increased.


iii. Government Subsidies and policy for growth:

Since findings show that funds have been sanctioned mainly for domestic/ family centric which restrict it expansion. In future funds can be given to community based urban/rural projects. Likewise, for its growth new inclusive policies may be prepared for industrial production and for future areas like electricity generation, bio based natural gas for vehicle fuel; and as an enriched bio-manure to be used as an effective alternative for chemical fertilizers with adequate financial assistance. The bio compressed natural gas (CNG) project shows a very optimistic signal.


iv. Private sector involvement:

As compared to other RE projects the involvement and investment by private sector is relatively low in the biogas sector due to its limited applicability in terms of geo-political region and use. Thus, for better involvement future policies can be formed to attract the private sector few initiatives are: increasing income tax exemption from 5 to 10 years; linking to “Make in India” start up Grant and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Since biogas is dominated in rural areas there can be better scope for expansion at cooperative sector (Sugar, Cotton, Poultry and Jute).


v. Maintenance issues:

As per Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) study unfortunately, around 4.5% of the inspected biogas plants are non functional. A total of 4194 biogas plants established during the 11th plan period in 8 different states were inspected. The main reasons for this as explained by the study could be;

1.    Construction and Maintenance defects

2.    Lack of raw material

3.    Problems related to equipment (burners, pipeline, fittings)


To cope with this present challenge not only technical but human/social factors can also be a viable future alternative by taking community ownership of such projects and setting up community level technician which also generates employment at local level as successfully applied in various water shed management projects in developing countries by World Bank.


vi. Social issues:

Few critical issues are: Lack of knowledge; uncertainty and distrust in the source of information; climate change is not being seen an immediate threat or priority for rural communities; social behaviour and expectations; absence of an enabling environment, i.e. government, local organisations, village panchayat; Inadequate training, capacity-building and user-education programmes6-7. For future planing three pronged strategy can become viable: i) Formal training (Local-level Biogas Training & Awareness Centres (LBTAC) ii) Use of social marketing and IEC strategies iii) involvement of local NGO’s; Panchyats; Women Self Help Group’s and NSS students.



There is a need of sustainable and clean energy sources in India to fulfil the power demands of the world’s most growing population, especially where more than 70 % of people reside in rural area. In such a context biogas a traditional energy generating technology seems promising satisfying the energy needs of both rural and urban population. India has a long history of using biogas. However, there are prime challenges that are hindering its growth and sustainability. Since, it is one of the utmost clean renewable energy technologies the present article tried to explore possible future scenarios of biogas to meet India’s sustainable energy challenges. This exercise suggests six scenarios and few prominent signals which can facilitate the key actors such as policy makers, practitioners and researchers. The scenarios are broadly based on following drivers: a) Decentralization and new adaptations in technology b) Future aspirations of biogas c) Market centric government policies d) Locally relevant appropriate approaches and e) scientific breakthroughs/hybridization of biogas technologies can certainly be meet the present future energy challenges for sustainable energy production at Indian as well as global context.





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Received on 01.01.2019       Modified on 15.01.2019

Accepted on 16.02.2019      ©AandV Publications All right reserved

Res.  J. Humanities and Social Sciences. 2019; 10(1): 215-218.

DOI: 10.5958/2321-5828.2019.00038.X