Asia, Cogeneration CHP, Latin America

Bagasse Cogen Could Meet 7% Of Power Demand

… in Cane-Producing Countries

Bagasse-based cogeneration could deliver up to 25% of the current power demand in the world’s main cane-producing countries, according to a new report from WADE: Bagasse Cogeneration – Global Review and Potential. The overall potential share in the world’s major developing cane-producing countries exceeds 7%, says the report, adding that no more than 15% of this potential has yet been realized.

Bagasse cogeneration describes the use of fibrous sugarcane waste – bagasse – to cogenerate heat and electricity on-site at high efficiency in sugar mills.

The critical condition for the full exploitation of this major opportunity is that mill owners should be able to secure competitive rates for the electricity they supply to the grid, or to other power consumers. Currently, these buyback rates rarely reflect the fair value of the electricity to the system – disincentivizing producers and preventing high-efficiency cogeneration plants from being optimally sized to meet heat demand, says the report.

WADE suggests that there is abundant opportunity for the wider use of bagasse-based cogeneration in sugarcane-producing countries. The potential is especially great in Brazil, India, Thailand, Pakistan, Mexico, Cuba, Colombia and the Philippines, which together account for 70% of global cane production (excluding China). Brazil and India are by some way the largest producers, and could generate 12% and 6% of their electricity needs from bagasse. Cogeneration based on sugarcane waste could account for 25% of Cuba’s demand, says the report.

Generating on-site energy from a waste product is a particularly attractive option, says the report, and the benefits from the fulfilment of the potential would be extensive:

  • near-zero fuel costs (paid in local currency), commercial use of a waste product and increased fuel efficiency – leading to an increase in the economic viability of sugar mills
  • more secure, diverse, reliable and widespread supply of electricity for local consumers
  • minimal transmission and distribution (T&D) costs, and reduced network losses, as generation is located near important loads
  • greater employment for local populations
  • lower emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases than from conventional fossil fuel generation

Most cane-producing countries are poor or extremely poor, with high unemployment and low rates of access to electricity supplies. In addition, many cane-producing countries are heavy users of coal or oil in the power generation sectors. Use of bagasse to generate electricity and heat can have a significant impact on emissions reduction, says WADE.

The US power grid is in better shape than before last August’s massive blackout, but remains vulnerable this summer, according to US Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. However, there could be problems this summer if owners of the nation’s 260,000 km of high-voltage grid neglect improvements suggested by the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) and others.

A comprehensive energy bill now stalled in the US Senate would give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) the power to enforce mandatory reliability rules that NERC plans to finalize early next year.

In the meantime, FERC has warned that California faces ‘very troublesome conditions’ this summer because of above-average temperatures and low hydropower supplies. NERC has also warned that unanticipated equipment problems and extremely hot weather could cause problems in California and New York.

Utilities are under pressure to comply with reliability standards, after a US-Canadian panel pinned much of the blame for the August blackout on Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corp.

Meanwhile NERC, the nation’s industry-funded grid watchdog, has said that indigenous power supplies should be adequate to meet peak demand this summer.

 


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