Turning agricultural waste into gold in the Philippines
For the past nine years, the Asian Clean Energy forum – which is hosted by the Asian Development Bank, a multilateral development finance institution – has gathered business leaders, government officials and experts from around the world to cover key aspects of clean energy promotion in Asia. At this year’s forum, which took place from 15th – 19th June, I was honored to be invited to present on behalf of Novozymes.
Sustainable poverty alleviation
The Bank – which is owned by 67 countries – aims for an Asia and Pacific free from poverty, and to achieve this goal it invests in the region through loans, grants, policy dialogue, technical assistance and equity investments. It also has a sustainable economic development mandate, which is why I was invited to speak about the potential of domestic cellulosic ethanol production as an alternative to imports to meet national ethanol blending mandates. Currently underutilized biomass residues in the region present an opportunity to reduce CO2 emissions, to address poverty through lower fuel import bills and to create new, high value employment opportunities, driving economic growth.
Meeting the mandate challenge
The Philippines has an E10 ethanol mandate. Around two-thirds of the ethanol required to meet this target is imported from the US, Brazil and elsewhere, leading to transport-related CO2 emissions. And with the Philippine Department of Energy’s move to increase the country’s ethanol blend from 10% to 20% by 2020, these imports – and their associated emissions – are set to grow even further, unless locally-produced ethanol can meet future demand. Inadequate local supply has led to a recent temporary relaxation of the rules mandating the use of 10% bioethanol blend in some gasoline products, highlighting the importance of stepping up this supply.
Local innovation capacity
Stepping up local supply by mobilizing agricultural residues in the local market would support the Philippines in meeting its mandated ethanol blending targets, give local biomass owners a chance to participate in the value chain and contribute to sustainable economic growth in the country. Before this can happen however, supply chain and logistic challenges must be overcome. My presentation addressed these challenges, and showed how the unique local obstacles to biomass mobilization in each market require ‘local innovation capacity’ solutions. The international audience were very interested in the examples I gave of biomass mobilization initiatives in Malaysia, including the Sarawak Biomass Hub project and the Biomass JV Cluster in Sabah.
Once the session was open to questions from the floor, I was surprised – given the international nature of the audience – at how many people were apparently unaware that there are already six commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plants operating in North America, South America and Europe. But it was also a pleasant surprise to see how open local companies are to embracing the potential of domestic cellulosic ethanol production: the very first question asked was how companies like Novozymes can partner with local stakeholders to exploit this potential.
Also high on the agenda during the discussion that arose from the audience’s questions were potential cellulosic ethanol production costs in the Philippines. This led to a debate about the broader opportunities that can add to the overall business case of a cellulosic plant, including the potential for renewable power or energy pellets resulting from the large amounts of lignin involved in the production process.
Benefits on a global scale
Quite apart from the regional benefits sustainable bioenergy can bring to Asia and the Pacific, there is a huge potential global benefit. Asia’s motorized transport emissions have become a significant contributor to the global problem of greenhouse gas emissions that lead to climate change, and the Asian Development Bank predicts that the region’s share in total worldwide transport–sector related CO2 emissions will increase to 31% by 2030. That is why it is so essential that businesses such as Novozymes continue to work together with institutions such as The Asian Development Bank to really make an impact on the uptake of clean energy in the region.
Sources: Asian Development Bank
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