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The Role of Bioethanol in India’s Renewable Energy Goals

Amid growing concerns about climate change, there has been an increased global focus on adopting clean energy sources. Solar and wind are the most common renewable energy sources worldwide, accounting for over 70% of the total installed capacity. However, there is now a significant push for other sources, particularly biofuels.

In line with this global trend, the Indian government has taken several initiatives to increase the contribution of renewable energy to the country’s total energy consumption. India aims to have 50% of its total installed power capacity coming from non-fossil-fuel-based sources by 2030. Currently, renewable energy (excluding hydro) accounts for only 2% of the total energy supply and approximately 12% of the total electricity generation. Solar and wind make up more than 95% of these renewable sources, while other sources like biofuels (including bioethanol) contribute less than 1%.

To increase the share of renewable energy and reduce dependence on crude oil imports, the Indian government is promoting an increase in the production of bioethanol. Bioethanol is primarily used for blending with petrol, with the current blend rate at around 10% ethanol. The government aims to achieve 20% ethanol blending in petrol by 2025.

To reach this target, an increase in ethanol production capacity is required. Currently, most bioethanol production plants in India are molasses-based, with a high dependency on sugarcane. The government is making efforts to increase bioethanol production from grains, especially corn, to reduce this dependency. However, challenges such as reduced sugarcane yield due to erratic and uneven rainfall and lower rice production due to insufficient rains and floods pose a threat to India’s ethanol blending program and renewable energy goals.

To overcome limited sugarcane supply, the country needs to focus on other sugar or starch-rich crops like corn and cassava. Upgrading ethanol production capacity, improving supply chain infrastructure, and fostering coordination among various stakeholders in the ethanol value chain are also necessary.

Addressing these challenges will be crucial in achieving India’s renewable energy goals and reducing the impact of climate change.

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