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Poultry Litter Can Ease Energy Crisis

by 5m Editor
25 January 2012, at 8:55am

BANGLADESH - The government could have saved foreign currency if it had gone for generating electricity from poultry waste instead of costly diesel– and furnace oil–based rental plants. It would also avoid a free-fall of the local currency that is fuelling inflation.

According to The Daily Star, the idea was shared by the governor of the central bank at a programme in Cox's Bazar a few weeks ago.

"Poultry waste can generate 2,000 megawatts of power annually at a much lower cost than what the country is incurring now," said Dr Atiur Rahman, governor of Bangladesh Bank.

Bangladesh had to import oil worth over $6 billion this fiscal year, mainly to feed the rental power plants. Moreover, a good amount of money is being spent on fertiliser imports. The consequence is that demand for the dollar is now record high and the local currency was devalued over 15 percent against the dollar in 2011.

"I spent sleepless nights under this pressure (on the dollar)," said the governor.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, and local lender Eastern Bank Ltd (EBL) jointly organised the event.

EBL launched 'Nobodoy', a customised loan product, to help farmers install fixed dome biogas plants to convert animal waste into electricity.

Bangladesh has 120,000-130,000 poultry farms of all sizes - small, medium and large - with a total investment of around $2 billion (Tk 16,000 crore). According to IFC, around 200 crore chickens in Bangladesh produce some 22 million tonnes of manure a year.

"It may not be possible to bring all these farms into the plan (electricity generation). But big firms can step in to do it," said Mr Rahman, who is known as the pro-farm and -renewable energy central bank governor of Bangladesh.

The move can benefit the farm owners immensely. Their expenses for managing waste will go down and it will meet demand for fuel for electricity. In addition, gas and electricity generated from these biogas plants could be sold to others, he said.

There are increasing pressures on poultry producers to embrace alternative management practices for surplus litter (waste) due to environmental concerns.

Mujibur Rahman, who runs a farm in Ramu in Cox's Bazar, was interested in installing a biogas plant to reduce diesel costs and to keep the environment clean.

"Frequent power outages are normal here, especially in summer. So, alternative energy, instead of diesel generators, is essential," said Mr Mujibur.

Soaring fuel prices almost drove him to close down the farm a few years ago. The fact is that Mujibur did not know that biogas could be used to produce electricity.

"Now, electricity generated at my plant saves me 14,400 litres of diesel a year," he said. He is now thinking about selling the gas to adjacent households.

Noyura Begum, 41, who started running a poultry farm with 1,600 chickens in 2004, now has 8,000 chickens. In 2007-08, she nearly had to shut down the farm for a surge in feed prices and low egg prices.

"Moreover, frequent load shedding was causing the chicks to die," said Noyura.

She was evaluating the options she had to carry on with her business when EBL came forward with a fund of Tk 6.5 million to help her set up a biogas plant.

"I have to spend Tk 5,000-7,000 per month for electricity bills and another Tk 1,000 for gas. I have taken up the bank loan to set up a biogas plant to save on this expense," she said.

Generating gas and electricity alone cannot make the business sustainable and commercially viable, according to Redwanoor Rahman (Bulbul), managing director of Rahman Renewable Energy in Savar.

"Selling slurry (fertiliser generated from animal waste) and cooking gas is a big challenge," said Bulbul, a young entrepreneur who claims to have installed 65 biogas plants across the country so far. One such plant is in Sitakundu that is generating 10 kilowatts of electricity, meeting the demand of 55 families.

The central bank governor urged the banks to make use of the BB refinancing facility. He mentioned that BB has allocated Tk 200 crore to refinance banks that will extend loans to the renewable energy sector. BB gives the loan to banks at an interest rate of 5 percent, while banks are allowed to charge customers 10 percent.

"We've refinanced only Tk 25 crore out of the Tk 200 crore funds. Banks look not that interested to enjoy this low-cost finance," said the governor.