Biogas technology is being promoted in India chiefly under the aspect of energy. The focus on this derives from the crucial energy supply situation for the population in the country. Besides China, India is the country where the development of uncomplicated biogas plants for the Tropics which are simple to operate started. Since the fifties the mass dissemination of biogas plants has been propagated and initiated for rural households, yet this development did not experience an upswing until the seventies so that by 1980 100,000 plants had been installed. With the beginning of the 6th 5-year plan in 1981, the National Project for Biogas Development (NPBD) came into being following the objective of mass dissemination of household biogas plants and also including financial support.
Biogas dissemination in India experienced a number of set-backs as a large proportion of the plants erected were not used or only used to an insufficient extent. Reasons on the one hand, were the immature technical properties of plants themselves until the beginning of the eighties and on the other hand, a dissemination strategy which was only minimally developed and which did not recognise the importance of user training and follow-up services until much later. Despite this, biogas technology was constantly supported by the Indian government. In 1982, the newly founded Department of Non-Conventional Energy Sources (DNES) as a department of the Ministry of Power and Non-Conventional Energy Sources took over central control of biogas dissemination. In the meantime, there are around 1 million household biogas plants in India of which 70-80% are assumed to be in operation.
Biogas dissemination is promoted centrally by the Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources (MNES, formerly DNES). This department consults on and resolves the guidelines on financial support for biogas technology, commissions assignments in research and development and decides on the eligibility of new biogas plants for aid. The actual dissemination work is carried out by the governments of the Indian states, the public corporations Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) and the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) but mainly by countless non-governmental organisations. Within the framework of aid prescribed by MNES each state is responsible for the guidelines applicable in its region. The individual provisions prevailing thus vary from state to state.
Types of Plant
A total of seven different types of biogas plant have been officially recognised by the MNES.
- the floating-drum plant with a cylindrical digester (KVIC model),
- the fixed-dome plant with a brick reinforced, moulded dome (Janata model)
- the floating-drum plant with a hemisphere digester (Pragati model)
- the fixed-dome plant with a hemisphere digester (Deenbandhu model)
- the floating-drum plant made of angular steel and plastic foil (Ganesh model)
- the floating-drum plant made of pre-fabricated reinforced concrete compound units
- the floating-drum plant made of fibre-glass reinforced polyester.
Only these types of plant and only when they do not exceed a nominal gas production of 10 m3 per day (i.e. approx. 30 m 3 digester volume) can apply for subsidies paid by the central government. This provision however, is interpreted by the governments of the Indian states and by local administration bodies so that in individual states completely different types of plants can quite often be defined by the relevant authorities to be one of the officially recognised types.
Promotion of Biogas Technology
The most important instrument in the promotion of biogas technology is the provision of allowances paid towards the investment costs which is of direct benefit to the farmers. Everyone in India installing a biogas plant has the right to an allowance paid by the central government. The extent of this sum is defined by the size of the plant, the social category the user belongs to and the relevant part of the country where the plant being promoted is located. India has been roughly divided into three areas according to the average altitude: according to this, the highest allowances are paid in the mountainous northeastern region; the second category includes hilly regions or ones of high altitude in other Indian states. The remaining states are covered by the third category. Here, the allowances depend on social categories: non-caste Hindus, members of the lower castes (scheduled castes), tribes (scheduled tribes) and the category of smallholders. Marginal farmers and those owning no land receive higher allowances than farmers in the general category which includes all farmers who do not belong to any of the social categories stated but who have more than 5 hectares of land.
In addition to direct allowances for investment costs, the states and private biogas dissemination organisations reaching an annual planned target of more than 8,000 plants receive 2.5% of the total amount of construction as an allowance towards establishing and maintaining an organisational infrastructure. This promotion called "service charge" amounts to 5% for dissemination programmes with a planned target of below 8,000. One half percent of this "service charge" must be allocated to establishing follow-up services, monitoring and evaluation, the compilation of material for public relations work and to gratuities for staff who deserve these.
More informations on provinces of India: