Sugar Industry creating a robust & sustainable ecosystem through “Ethanol”


Biofuels play a vital role in India’s clean energy plans especially when the energy strategy of the country aims at efficiency and security and to provide access which is environment friendly and achievable with an optimum mix of primary resources for energy generation. Fossil fuels will continue to play a dominant role in the energy scenario in our country in the next few decades. However, conventional or fossil fuel resources are limited, non-renewable, polluting and, therefore, need to be used prudently. On the other hand, renewable energy resources are indigenous, non-polluting and virtually inexhaustible. India is endowed with abundant renewable energy resources. India is 83% dependent on imports which costs approximately Rs. 120 billion ($1.74 billion) for meeting its oil needs. While the Biofuels have the benefits of reducing import dependency on crude oil, cleaner environment, additional income to farmers and employment generation in rural areas, the programme is also in synergy with the Government of India initiatives for Make in India, Swachh Bharat and enhancing farmers’ income.

India has the potential to become one of the largest ethanol producers in the world due to its large-scale sugarcane production. The Government of India and the sugar industry are working together to achieve the target of 20 per cent blending of ethanol in petrol by 2025 from the earlier target of 2030. Brazil has for over 40 years been using ethanol, a 100 percent plant-derived renewable fuel, in vehicles and has developed one of most efficient and economical systems for producing this biofuel. The Brazilian Government is expected to offer ways to assist India in boosting its ethanol program by sharing knowledge and help India develop a robust ethanol policy that will go a long way to create a sustainable ecosystem. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between India and Brazil envisages technical collaboration and exchange in technology, such as second-generation ethanol and collaboration in terms of automobile engines.

Today on occasion of World Biofuel Day which is observed every year on 10th August to create awareness about the importance of non-fossil fuels as an alternative to conventional fossil fuels various stalwarts of the Sugar Industry shared their views.

Excerpts :

◾ Prof. Narendra Mohan, Director, National Sugar Institute – India
“To me, biofuels, i.e. fuels produced from renewable organic material, have the potential to reduce some undesirable aspects of fossil fuel production and use, which include conventional and greenhouse gas (GHG) pollutant emissions, exhaustible resource depletion, and dependence on unstable foreign suppliers for many countries. As we look forward towards clean and green renewable fuels e.g. ethanol derived from sugarcane, grains and other feed stocks, upsurge in the demand for biofuels could also increase farm income. I look forward to biofuels for environmental sustainability, energy security and as a measure for possible increase in the income of the farmers. As regards Indian Sugar Industry it would be “grab the opportunity” with a long term vision. Have a self sustainable system looking at availability of feed stocks instead of going in arbitrarily for capacity building. Keep in mind the advent of electric vehicles in time to come.

The National Sugar Institute has been on its toes from last many years and is actively playing an eminent role to spread awareness on Biofuels and its Importance with special emphasis on ethanol. Ethanol is important for the sugar industry as a measure to balance sugar demand –supply scenario and consequential economic sustainability. We are active in suggesting industry various models of sugar diversion for boosting ethanol production besides working on assessment of other potential feed stocks viz. sugar beet and sweet sorghum. Institute looks forward to the sugar industry as a hub of bio-energy

I would say, still there is a long way to go. Effects of global warming and climate change on crops cannot be ruled out. For production of biofuels we have to work hard on short duration sturdy crops which also require less irrigation water. It should be a win-win situation for all the stakeholders. We need a holistic approach.”

◾ Mr.Prakash Naiknavare – Managing Director, National Federation of Co-operative Sugar Factories (NFCSF)
“Biofuels are the key word in the process of saving Indian sugar sector from a vertical collapse. It’s a triple win formula for all the stakeholders. Saving outgo of precious forex. Improving environment & assured additional revenue for the ailing sugar industry interali millions of cane growing farmers pan India. NFCSF has been advocating its members to change their focus from Sugar to Biofuels”

◾ Mr. Amaury Pekelman, President – UDOP : Uniao Nacional da Bioenergia do Brasil.
“At a time when we are experiencing a health crisis that is unprecedented in history, directly related to issues involving respiratory problems, looking at biofuels is of paramount importance to improve air quality in large cities. That is why we have to praise initiatives such as those signaled by India to anticipate the higher blended content of ethanol in fossil fuels, for example, which will greatly contribute to the carbon footprint in the Indian atmosphere, in addition to representing a great alternative in the technological development of automotive industry, like the progress we have seen in this regard in Brazil with cars with flexible engines and now, with flex hybrid technology, with electric motors whose batteries are charged with ethanol in the combustion engines themselves. I believe that as more countries adopt ethanol as an ally in the search for clean and renewable fuels, we will have the strengthening of a new era in which biofuels will be able to contribute even more to the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions that have caused so much damage to the environment. Ethanol’s footprint as the main source of clean energy is super important for the current moment in which we live. In addition, having ethanol as an alternative to raw materials such as sugarcane also favors the world sugar market.

UDOP – União Nacional da Bioenergia has a history of more than three and a half decades working in the sugar-energy sector, always focusing on professional training and the search for more technologies that can improve the yield and competitiveness of our products, whether sugar , ethanol and bioelectricity (the energy generated by burning sugarcane bagasse), in addition to our role in expanding and fostering debate within and outside Brazil for a new look at the role of biofuels. On the occasion of World Biofuel Day, I would like to congratulate the Indian government for its vision of the importance of biofuels in the energy matrix of its country. We are convinced that this path, with no return, as has been happening in Brazil and the United States, will greatly contribute to making ethanol a global commodity.”

◾ Mr. Eduardo Leão de Sous, Executive Director, UNICA – The Brazilian Sugar Industry Association
“India has all the conditions required to quickly increase the supply of ethanol. It can easily divert the juice that has been used to produce surplus sugar to produce ethanol. This would mean risk-management and, at the end of the day, higher income for sugarcane farmers. Looking at the Brazilian case, practically all the sugar mills are attached to distilleries in such a way that they have the option of producing either sugar or ethanol depending on the price ratio between the two products. This is an interesting mechanism to reduce the risk of the farmers and producers, giving them the option to define their production according to the market opportunities and benefit from additional revenue. This flexibility that ethanol can bring to the sugar industry is key to the business.

Predictability is the name of the game here. The more predictability you have, the higher the chances of having a successful ethanol program. Long term and clear rules in place will allow investors and entrepreneurs to feel confident in making their decisions now and in the future. Again, based on the Brazilian experience, it is fundamental that the private sector works closely with the government, in order to define public policies that provide the correct signals to the manufacturers. Mechanisms such as a clear pricing system and a tax regime that recognises the benefits of biofuels in detriment to fossil fuels are crucial. In my opinion, the most relevant policy should be a mandatory blend of the ethanol into the gasoline, which will ensure that the demand will justify investments in new distilleries in the country. In Brazil, all the gasoline sold in our 40,000 fueling stations has 27% ethanol blended into it.”

◾ Mr. Yatin Wadhwana widely known as the Indian Sugar Guru, a strategic consultant and trader with over 35 years of experience and Director at Gradient Commercial Pvt. Ltd.
“If one looks at India’s sugar production over the past 4 decades, it has always been well ahead of consumption. In the past the main reason for drop in production well below consumption levels had always been an excess supply of sugar in the market leading to a drop in prices and non-ability of the Mills to pay cane dues.

With the new Ethanol Policy implemented by the current Government,, the main obstacle of excessive sucrose has been resolved by diverting it to the Biofuel programme. This policy not only addresses the challenge of excess sucrose, it also provides an environment friendly sustainable alternative fuel source which results in saving of Foreign Exchange for the Exchequer and makes for an Atma Nirbhar Bharat. It should now be ensured that the ethanol policy is continued over a long period of time so that the stakeholders in the infrastructure that is set up in terms of Distilleries Ethanol blending stations and eventually the manufacture of Flex Fuel vehicles are able to recover their investments.”

◾ Mr. Atul Chaturvedi – Executive Chairman, Shree Renuka Sugars Ltd.
“On the occasion of World Biofuel Day we need to renew our commitment to give the required thrust to biofuels. Biofuels need to be encouraged big time if we want our carbon footprints to be reduced and make the air more cleaner for our next generation. India is a signatory to the Paris accord and our Prime Minister is a great supporter of biofuels. Our Honourable Prime Minister is giving the required thrust to Ethanol which is proving to be a “Game Changer” for the Sugar industry. Ethanol push is Environmentally welcome, Economically prudent, Politically sensible and the icing on the cake is that it’s an Import substitute.

I would go to the extent of saying that Sugar industry should now be called ‘Energy Industry’ and the challenge of excess production is getting converted into an opportunity.Who knows in future India may have no need to subsidise the consumers in neighbouring countries by giving export Subsidies. My only suggestion to the industry stakeholders is to ensure the success of the ethanol programme as it would help us in getting rid of excess production and improve cash flows which has been a bane for our industry. The parity between Ethanol and Sugar is very precariously balanced.To ensure Sugar sacrifice to keep increasing it is important that the difference between Minimum Selling Price of sugar and ethanol should remain tilted in favour of ethanol. The legitimate demand of the sugar industry to increase the selling price of sugar should simultaneously trigger an increase in ethanol prices as well.

At Shree Renuka Sugars Ltd. we are totally committed to keep increasing our ethanol capacity in line with our National mission. We have already announced expanding our current Distillery capacity of 720 KLPD to 1400 KLPD and work on the same has already started. From Indian perspective Cane juice /Molasses is the most competitive and logical feedstock for making ethanol. No Nation can compromise its ‘Fuel Security’ to the extent of 85% of its requirement. Ethanol from the Sugar sector has the potential of not only reducing carbon footprints but also conserving precious foreign exchange.The Sustainability of the Sugar sector is also dependent on the continued thrust of the Government.

Mr. Bharat Bhushan Mehta, CEO & Whole time Director – Dalmia Bharat Sugar and Industries Limited
“Dalmia Bharat Sugar remains committed to invest in the home grown biofuels. That’s how India is going to free itself from our dependence on foreign oil and we continue to stay focused on long-term commitment to transform our Sugar Sector to a leading energy sector creating value for the shareholders. This is also the right way of managing soaring inventories of Sugar and food grains and has potential to bring an economic and social equilibrium in the country.”

◾ Mr. Sanjay Desai, Managing Director, Excel Engineers & Consultants, a trend-setter for implementation of modern ethanol plants
The world will be a difficult place to live in the next twenty five to fifty years due to climate change etc. and only green biofuels can help reduce damage. As an industry stakeholder I feel we should be looking at ethanol as the main alternative to gasoline cars rather than EV cars which use energy from fossil fuels indirectly and also batteries will pollute the planet again. We should deploy biofuels plants without requiring the use of fossil fuels like coal etc. to produce ethanol and also we should be very strict on environment guidelines while approving such large scale projects. Excel Engineers and Consultants is doing it’s bit for a sustainable future by providing cutting edge green technology for production of Bio-Ethanol from various renewable feed stocks and are responsible for 40% ethanol production in India. We hold pride in being involved in 100 projects on a PAN India basis. Currently, Excel is building the following
i) 800 kl sugarcane ethanol plant
ii) 450 kl grain ethanol plant
iii) 350 kl a combination plant based on sugar cane and grain feed stock
iv) 100 kl sugarcane to ethanol plant in India
v) another 18 projects of various capacities

Mr. Arpit Chaturvedi – Co-Founder and CEO, Global Policy Insights (GPI)  a centrist policy institute throughout the world to deliver innovative unions of research, advisory, design, deliberative enquiry, and consulting services. 
“Alternate fuels, especially biofuels are a necessary way forward towards circular economy. It can transform our food systems, economy, and can help address the challenges of climate change. By virtue of these qualities, they are more sustainable than their traditional counterparts.”


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