Renewable energy is increasingly becoming the dominant source of new power generation . According to The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Renewable energy capacity grew a total of 9.1% worldwide, amounting to 3,064GW
According to the said report, 60% of new renewable capacity is installed in Asia in 2021. It’s true that the Renewable Energy is on a roll but it’s also true that the transition still has a long way to go specially in developing countries.
In terms of generating electricity from renewable energy for the grid, the transition is far from optimal and one of the main reason is cost. Yes, generation of electricity from renewable sources such as Wind and Solar are becoming cheaper but that is only possible because of the base load that comes from fossil fuel generation i.e. coal power plants. This massive baseload supplies most of our electricity and stands in for intermittent solar and wind.
The initial investment is also high as old systems cannot be directly replaced or reused by Solar or Wind power plants. New systems and infrastructure will need to be built. In most cases Solar or Wind power plants needs to be built in remote areas that are windy or sunny. This means new transition grid will also need to be laid out. It can be argued that the huge upfront cost will be offset by the much lower operating cost of Wind or Solar power plants and will be cheaper in the long run but a huge initial investment still does not help the case of faster transition to renewable energy sources
One quick solution that is gaining ground is converting existing coal power plants to biomass power plants. Biomass is fuel derived from organic materials such as plants, wood and other raw materials. This fuels energy in many forms such as electricity. The energy generated from this fuel varies depending on the resources and need. Energy production using Biomass can also vary depending on the application. Either via thermal conversion, Direct firing and co-firing, Pyrolysis, Gasification or Anaerobic decomposition. In the matter of generating electricity for what was originally a coal power plant, this solution only requires replacing coal with biomass as the fuel. All existing systems and infrastructure will remain with some minor modifications. Biomass can come from plants or animal matter so it is considered a sustainable energy source.
Coal to Biomass Conversion Trend
Many European countries have announced a deadline to end all coal burning. The UK targets 2025, France by 2022, Netherlands by 2030 and Italy by 2025. Due to the European Union’s tightening of emission limits, the switch to biomass from coal has enabled power plants to stay profitable.
Biomass Supply in South East Asia
One advantage of using Biomass to generate power in South East Asia is the abundance supply. the ASEAN region is a large producer of agricultural products, and in turn produces huge quantities of agricultural waste. These are plants and animal waste can be used directly or processed into briquettes or pellets to improve usability and efficiency. According to a report by IEA: Outlook for biogas and biomethane: Prospects for organic growth, the availability of sustainable feedstock for the purposes of biogas and biomass is set to grow by 40% over the period to 2040 and the largest opportunities lie across the Asia Pacific region
Fully transitioning to renewable energy sources such as Wind and Solar for the grid may become daunting as it requires huge upfront investment but it will prove cost effective in the long run. For already running fossil-fueled power plant, Biomass can be the best solution specially in regions where agricultural waste supply is abundant and under utilized. Biomass can be the answer to a faster transition to renewables