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Güssing model:Regional Biomass gassification success story in Austria: Learnings for India and success stories

Just yesterday, Panchabuta had discussed in detail about the excellent progress in the biomass targets for the current plan period and provided a detail analysis of the commissioned and under implementation projects.

According to this report, Güssing, a town of just 4,000 residents in a backward region of Austria, in a span of a little more than a decade has given rise to the ‘Güssing model’ of sustainable energy.

Here, wood fuels a green alternative

……..This is the big story of little Güssing, a town of just 4,000 residents in a backward region of Austria, which in a span of a little more than a decade has given rise to the ‘Güssing model’ of sustainable energy.
……..Under these bleak circumstances, the town in the early 1990s drew up an energy plan for the 27,000 residents of Güssing district (of which the town is the centre). Says Peter Vadasz, town mayor since 1992 and one of the key figures in Güssing’s turnaround, “In 1995, we found the annual energy bill of the area was 6.2 million euros. All this money was going out as we were dependent on the outside world for electricity, heating and motor fuels.””

The plan was to replace fossil fuels with local renewables. In 1996, the European Centre for Renewable Energy came up in Güssing to coordinate research. Various projects began but the challenge was to efficiently tap the energy of the area’s 45% forest cover. Grants from the federal government and European Union funded research leading to a breakthrough in wood gassification.

Gassification is a way of converting organic matter into gas in the absence of oxygen. The gas produced can be used to generate electricity, with the by-product, heat, being utilized for district heating. It can also be converted into methane used for heating or cooking, and also for biofuel production.


Güssing’s flagship innovation was the ‘fluidized bed steam gassification’ technology. A biomass plant using the technology started in 2001. A collaborative effort involving private companies and public institutions, it draws energy from the region’ s plentiful waste wood. It can produce 2,000 kWh of electric power as well as 4,500 kWh of heat. Clean diesel production from the wood gas is at a demonstration stage.

The plant has transformed Güssing. Says Vadasz, “From an outflow of 6.2 million euros on energy, the district in 2005 was producing 15 million euros worth of energy from local renewables. Gassification is a clean technology. This and use of other renewables like solar power has helped cut our carbon emissions by 70% – the deepest reduction across Europe. People have become richer too, with municipal tax receipts rising 300%.”

It will be interesting to note that an adapted Güssing model will work for India and early indications of its success are evident from  the  ” biomass power production using rice husk projects” that is happening in Bihar. and power is sold on a “pay per use” model. This model will be successful in the rice-producing but power-deficit states of Bihar, eastern UP, West Bengal and Orissa.
According to this report in the media yesterday, Government is encouraging rice producing states in the country to generate electricity from its husk to fulfil the unmet need for electricity in their villages and so far about 150 villages and hamlets in Bihar have been getting electricity through rice husk based biomass generation.
The key point for the success of this model is the approach of the ministry which is to promote such systems in West Bengal, Orissa, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and other rice producing states in association with state government and NGOs based on sustainable business model.
The willingness of the rural villagers to “pay per use” and the business model where the subsidy from MNRE and the initial investment by the NGO leads to a sustainable business model makes this very attractive.
Another key to success in India will be less dependence on wood or biomass/energy plantations and overcoming the problem of feedstock. The availability of feedstock in certain cases varies even within the state and within a particular district this has to be analyzed at a micro market level for the success of the project.
This has given rise to the “Mirco Biomass Power Projects” like those in Bihar discussed by Panchabuta that will be off grid and will feed a cluster of village/ villages where feedstock is local and readily available and otherwise going waste and aggregation is not a challenge.
It will be interesting to note though, that India as a country processes less than 5% of its agricultural produce, according to this report. According to Dr Rakesh Tuli, Executive Director of National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute (NABI), “A huge amount of biomass and agri-waste left on the farms needs to be used for developing high value products, molecules and energy.”
According to this recent report, Y B Ramakrishna, State Taskforce on Biofuel Chairman, stated, “It is learnt that the coastal districts have in abundance sardine fishes, cashew apples and jackfruits, which are rich source of bio ethanol. Approximately 40,000 tonnes of cashew apples rot wasted in the region per year, which can very well be used for producing 15 to 16,000 ton of bio ethanol. There are plans to use waste of Campco to produce biofuel.”  Ramakrishna noted that anywhere from 50,000 to 70,000 tons of sardine oil is being exported to Europe, where Omega III is extracted, and the waste oil is then processed into bio-diesel.
Given these developments, Panchabuta is very confident that apart from biomass based grid projects that have already proven successful,  “Mirco Power Projects” that will be off grid will contribute significantly to the success of rural electrification in central and the agricultural belt of India.
While Solar will continue to play a major role in off grid, the contribution of “Rice Husk Power Plants” will also be significant as they are of a much lower capital cost.  MNRE has been doing a great job in encouraging this through its partnerships with the states and  NGOs to develop a sustainable business model.

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