Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Burn Garbage to Solve Pakistan's Electricity Crisis?

Among other things during a visit to Pakistan last year, the frequent power outages, commonly called "load shedding", and piles of garbage in the streets made a distinct impression on my family and I. Since our return to the United States, I have been wondering if it is possible to solve both problems at once? Clean up the streets by collecting garbage, and burn the collected trash to generate more electricity? It seems that the Danes are doing exactly that, according to a story in today's New York Times.

Denmark's Community Power Plants:

The new plants in Denmark are far cleaner than conventional incinerators. Such new type of plants convert local community trash into heat and electricity. Dozens of filters catch pollutants, from mercury to dioxin, that would have emerged from its smokestack only a decade ago.

As a result of new innovations, Denmark now regards garbage as a clean alternative fuel rather than a smelly, unsightly problem. And the incinerators, known as waste-to-energy plants, are welcomed by many upscale communities of professionals that vie to have them built.

Denmark now has 29 such plants, serving 98 municipalities in a country of over 5 million people, and 10 more are planned or under construction. Across Europe, there are about 400 plants, with Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands leading the pack in expanding them and building new ones, according to the New York Times.

Pakistan's Mountains of Garbage:

With the consumption boom of packaged products in the last few years, it seems that Pakistani cities are inundated with rubbish, and the garbage collection and waste disposal systems are totally inadequate. Here is an excerpt from my post in July 2009 about visit to Karachi:

"We saw lots of heaps of stinking trash in several parts of the city along the roadside on our way. It seemed as though the Karachi garbage collectors were on strike, but my impressions proved to be incorrect, as I was told that this was normal in several parts of Karachi. The government owned and operated garbage collection systems pick up less than 50% of the solid waste generated and the remaining uncollected garbage rots on the streets, posing serious health risks for the growing population. The massive piles of garbage also plug up the already inadequate storm water drains resulting in serious flooding in the monsoon months of July and August every year. None of the major cities in Pakistan have an adequate solid waste management system, though Karachi city government has reportedly contracted with a Chinese firm to establish and operate such a system. The waste collection and management firm, Shanghai Shen Gong Environmental Protection Company Limited, will start its operations of collecting litter from across the city from August 14, 2009 - initially in only six of the eighteen towns of the city of Karachi. And, as expected, this service will not come free, nor should it. Karachi-ites will be required to pay Rs. 100 to 1,000 per month as public utility charges under six categories (according to lot size) on their residential units. Businesses built on 200 sq yards to 10,000 sq yards or more will have to pay Rs. 500 to Rs. 5,000 in garbage collection fees while industrial units covering an area of 1,000 sq yards to 5,000 sq yards and above will be billed Rs. 500 to Rs. 2,000 per month. There have already been howls of protests against these garbage collection fees and it will be interesting to see how effective CDGK (City District Government of Karachi) will be in ensuring payments."

Unfortunately, I am told that things have gotten much worse since last year. The City District Government of Karachi (CDGK) has since been dissolved, and the privatization of garbage collection has not materialized. At the same time, the energy crisis has become significantly more acute, with extended hours of "load shedding" on a daily basis.


There is no real substitute for dramatic improvements in government's energy policies and governance to solve the acute energy problems Pakistan faces. However, I do think the Danish experience is worth exploring by at least some of the communities in Pakistan. Instead of just complaining about mounting garbage piles, and running noisy and polluting diesel generators to fill the growing power gap, it is time for some of the upscale urban communities to start taking a page from the European experience to kill two birds with one stone. Based on the "clean energy" designation, these projects might even qualify for dollars from carbon credits under Kyoto's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Upscale communities such as Defense Housing Societies should seek guidance from their Danish counterparts to establish a few pilot projects to prove the concept in Pakistan.

Similar efforts can be undertaken in the industrial sector as well, with various industrial estates leading the way to solve their power problems. Rachna Industrial Park near Sheikhupura has already launched a 25 MW trash-burning power plant project currently underway.

Here's a video explaining waste to energy processes:

Related Link:

Load Shedding and Circular Debt in Pakistan

President Musharraf Video Defense on Power Crisis

Creative Financing of Pakistan's Energy Projects

Eleven Days in Karachi

Garbage Disposal in South Asia

Europe Finds Clean Energy in Trash

Going Through the CDM Process

Pakistan's Energy Crisis

Renewable Energy for Pakistan

Pakistan Inks Hydroelectric Power Deals

Carbon Offsets Under Fire

The Politics of Climate Change

Cap and Trade and The New Carbon Economy

Electric Power Crisis Worsens in Pakistan

Light a Candle, Don't Curse Darkness

Social Entrepreneurs Target India and Pakistan

Grameen Shakti Solar For Pakistan

Waste-to-Energy Needed in Pakistan

Climate Change Worsens Poverty in India

Carbon Trading: Opportunity For Pakistan


Anonymous said...

Local communities can do lot of things... even individual houses can be fueled by solar energy but the problem is govt. attitude is very discouraging.
No rebates or tax exemptions are available for import of renewable energy technologies.
Local communities helped govt in generation by buying portable generators on personal expense and govt. kept earning taxes.
Now govt. is planning to introduce new tax for personal generator use!
what is the surety that govt. will not tax garbage or sunlight in future?

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "Local communities helped govt in generation by buying portable generators on personal expense and govt. kept earning taxes.
Now govt. is planning to introduce new tax for personal generator use!"

The costs of slow human development and lost economic productivity from lack of electricity far exceeds any other costs, including govt taxes.

Already, people in upscale communities in Pakistan are using noisy and polluting diesel generators in their homes. This is very inefficient. If they simply organize, pool their resources and build community based small power plants, they will a have more abundant, cheaper and cleaner electricity than they do now.

Anonymous said...

Even if the waste to energy plant is made, they still need to supply it with garbage, which needs collection, which we currently lack. Hence the garbage on the streets scenario.
Plus, you cannot simply burn everything. You will have to take out certain materials. That requires additional technology.
The fact that Pakistan has abundant Nuclear fuel, Water resources and fossil fuels but still faces load shedding, is the testament of the fact that it is the government's lack of desire to solve this problem. Without private investment the power industry in Pakistan has no hope. The rate at which the power shortfall is increasing and the rate at which new plants are being commissioned, load shedding is here to stay for long.

Riaz Haq said...

Other than vast amounts of sulfur-laden coal and rapidly dwindling gas reserves, Pakistan does not have any significant fossil fuel resources.

But it does have a lot of wind and sun which could be exploited with a wise policy.

Given Pakistan's huge supply-demand gap, the nation needs to tap all possible resources to meet its growing energy needs.

In the mean time, it is important for communities to light candles rather than curse darkness. One way to do it is to collect garbage, build community based local power plants, including garbage burning plants, to deal with the growing crisis.

Modern garbage burning power plants are nothing like the old incinerators. Otherwise, the environmentally conscious Danes would never use them..particularly in their upscale communities of doctors and lawyers.

Anonymous said...

wind solar garbage etc etc is never gonna give you baseload power till there is a major breakthrough in battery tech which enables you to commercially store vast amounts of power.

What Pakistan needs to do is
1.Tap its vast coal reserves under the thar desert.

2.Massively invest in coal based power.

India currently has the ability to produce 20,000MW of thermal power plant equipment every year!
This is scheduled to go up to 30,000MW per year by 2012.
When L&T-Mitsubishi,JSW-Toshiba and BHEL-Alstom JVs for super/ultra critical power plants fructify.
It would make economic sense for Pakistan to buy its power plants in India and pay for this by leasing parts of its thar coal fields just across the border to India.

Everyone wins!

Riaz Haq said...

anon: "It would make economic sense for Pakistan to buy its power plants in India and pay for this by leasing parts of its thar coal fields just across the border to India."

I agree that Pakistan needs to use more coal for generating electricity. But why buy plants from India?

India's own power sector today is dominated by Chinese companies.

Here's an excerpt from a recent Wall Street Journal story:

Chinese companies are now supplying equipment for about 25% of the new power capacity India is adding to its grid, up from almost nothing a few years ago. They have sent thousands of skilled workers to Indian plant sites, some of which boast Chinese chefs, Chinese television and ping pong.

Sher said...

The steam generators in a thermal power stations in Pakistan were designed to burn gas, coal or oil. It would require a major change in the waste disposal system, among other design changes, of those steam generators to make them capable for burning garbage. Do Pakistanis have the time and knowledge to do it? What about trucking system to deliver garbage to the plants? And conveyors and garbage bunkers for steam generators?

Riaz Haq said...

Sher: "It would require a major change in the waste disposal system, among other design changes, ..."

I am not suggesting that existing power plants be converted to burn garbage. Instead, I think it's an opportunity for community based local power plants to meet the needs of the communities, since the govt is miserably failing in its duty. As an example, Rachna industrial estate near Lahore is working on a 25 MW garbage burning plant for the local factories.

Instead of complaining or using noisy and polluting diesel generators in individual homes, the local communities should organize themselves to pool their resources and invest in garbage collection, disposal and clean power generation using state of the art European technology, like the one in Denmark that New York Times featured recently.

Sher said...

A quick way would be to install solar panels along with a UPS system. It is technically feasible as seen being done in Phoenix for private buildings and for single family homes. It does not require cooling water, no tall chimneys and wastes to dispose-of. It can be designed, furnished and installed in a span of several months. Only requirement is some area on top of the roof or near the building to install solar panels.

Riaz Haq said...

Sher: "A quick way would be to install solar panels along with a UPS system."

It's not a matter of either or. I think solar and wind should be pursued along with base power from plants that are not subject to intermittence problems.

At the moment, solar is quite expensive at $5 a watt installed cost. It works in the US because of subsidies. Eventually it's expected to come down to about a $1 per watt and subsidies can then be eliminated.

There is a company called Grameen Shakti in Bangladesh which is selling to 100 Watt panels with microfinancing to villages away from the grid. Something like that could work in some places in Pakistan.

Anonymous said...

Informative post, incineration have been discussed but as Pakistanis know nothing is going to be done. Though, its good to read visitor's comments about our problems.

Anonymous said...

"Clean" and "green" are words not usually associated with the streets of Lahore, but a garbage collecting business is changing the image of the Pakistani city.

And it is making millions of dollars in the process, by turning waste into liquefied petroleum products and fertiliser for farmlands.

Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder reports from Lahore, Pakistan.


Taylor Cass said...

Incineration technology is not recommended in lesser developed countries, it has even been problematic here in Japan. The best solution is to find ways that the waste management system can improve and still be managed largely by the people currently scavenging waste for consumption and recycling. Brazil and Cairo have made strides in this area. If waste is privatized, or if incineration becomes the predominant waste management method, Pakistan will be left with a huge population of highly marginalized people without a livelihood, as we are seeing all around the world. Waste management is as much a human security issue as it is an environmental one.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a News story of how the worst-hit Punjab industries are switching to alternate power and gas generation:

The Punjab industries are converting on alternative energy due to uninterrupted power and gas outages of six to eights hours daily, besides improving their efficiency to reduce costs and stay competitive domestically and internationally, analysts said on Tuesday.

“We are unable to compete with similar industries in other provinces that enjoy full gas supplies and lower electricity load-shedding, said Syed Nabeel Hashmi, Chairman Punjab Economic Forum.

The majority of industries are suffering from power and gas load-shedding, but some have managed to reduce the operating cost through improvement in their efficiencies.The manufacturing sector in Punjab is now using biomass (agricultural waste), solid municipal waste, coal gasifiers, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), used tyres, rejected leather soles as alternative fuels to gas, furnace oil and diesel, he said.

In addition, Punjab industries have upgraded technology and their human resource to improve productivity, said Hashmi.Gohar Ejaz, group leader All Pakistan Textile Mills Association, said, “We would never have realised the quantum of savings that could be made through energy audits.”

German non-government organisation GIZ and Small and Medium Enterprises Authority (SMEDA) have facilitated APTMA member mills by providing free services of highly qualified foreign energy audit and management system experts, he said, adding that only through energy audit and the resultant cost-free changes in the manufacturing system 25 APTMA members gained a cumulative benefit of Rs258 million per annum.

The benefits doubled for those mills that agreed to make some minor investments, he said, adding that savings made through improvement in efficiencies did provide some relief to the mills when they used alternative energy resources.

Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) Senior Vice President Kashif Yunus Mehr, who is associated with the steel melting industry, said that larger steel melting units have imported coal gasifiers from China.

The gas produced is use to heat the furnaces, he said.“It costs 20 percent higher than the natural gas as it was the only alternative to keep the industry running as natural gas is mostly unavailable.”

These gasifiers require investment of Rs25 million that mills with small capacities cannot afford, he said, adding that the small steel melting units are using locally-fabricated small gasifiers that are highly inefficient, but serve the purpose of keeping the production intact.

Among the larger corporate sector, Nishat Group has established a 12MW biomass and solid municipal waste-run power plant at its textile processing unit in Lahore, he said.To cut its cost, it is recovering the caustic soda used in its processing mills by installing a recovery plant at its water treatment facility, said Mehr.

At its cement factory in Kalar Kahar, it is using solid municipal waste, used tyres, rubber chappals, rice husk, wheat straw, corn cob, as fuel for heating purposes.“We are not using power supplied by the Pakistan Electric Power Company (PEPCO) in most of the manufacturing facilities of our group,” said Nishat Group Chairman Mian Mohammud Mansha.

Engineering sector entrepreneur Almas Hyder said, “Unfortunately our industrial sector grew initially on protection that gave rise to huge inefficiencies.”By improving efficiencies the increase in cost of production could be absorbed to a large extent, he said.


Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts of a News interview with Pak industrialist Mian Mansha:

Q: Do you think the decisions taken at recent energy summit would resolve the power and gas crisis? Is it the most burning issue impacting Pakistan’s productivity?

Mansha: Short-term decisions are no solution to a problem that requires long term planning. The government could save a trillion rupees if the power plants using furnace oil were run on coal.

In fact about a year back I proposed to the government to allow me to convert Nishat group furnace oil power plants to coal. The investment plan and revenue sharing formula to cover the cost was also outlined. I regret that things have not moved painfully slow on this proposal of vital national importance. Converting these plants to coal would wipe out entire circular debt in a year and generate resources for alternate energy and hydroelectric projects.

Q: How do you propose to reform the power sector?

Mansha: The deteriorating fuel mix is increasing the base cost. We are producing over 50 percent of power using the most expensive furnace oil as fuel. The losses and theft in electricity distribution are alarmingly high at 35 percent. The public sector power projects are operating a very low efficiency. Sensible solution to the crisis is to privatise and deregulate this sector.

The power distribution companies should emulate KESC that ensures most productive use of electricity by exempting industries from load shedding.

Q: You are pioneer in alternative energy projects, are they feasible?

Mansha: We have been seeking cheaper energy solution. Our cement plant first shifted to coal from furnace oil and then to biomass and municipal solid waste that were even cheaper alternatives.

Pakistan is blessed with large quantity of biomass that has a potential to produce 6000 MW of electricity. Our companies are using corncob, rice husk, wheat straw, cotton plant sticks and other agriculture residue, solid municipal waste, slippers, sandals, and used tyres to generate energy.


Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Daily Times report on planned biogas power plant in Karachi:

ISLAMABAD: IFC, a member of the World Bank Group is advising a Pakistan-based biogas company on the development of a waste-to-energy plant in Landhi, Karachi turning a serious environmental problem into a renewable energy resource.

The plant to be built by Karachi Organic Energy (KOEL) will convert cow manure into electricity while producing organic fertilizer as a byproduct. IFC will provide KOEL-a joint venture between Karachi Electric Supply Company Limited (KESC) and the Amman Foundation with advice on project development and financing.

When completed, it will generate up to 22 megawatts of power from animal waste that was currently being discharged directly into the sea. There is tremendous potential in this biogas project, said Tabish Gauhar, CEO of KESC. Its footprint extends beyond power generation. It will have a positive effect on the community and importantly on the environment. The plant will be the largest biogas project in the country and it is expected to serve as a model for future developments.


Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Daily Times report on converting waste to electricity:

National Industrial Parks (NIP) Development and Management Company has decided to establish a 25 megawatt (MW) power generation plant based on municipal and agro waste besides local coal or combination of these fuels for the electricity requirement of the industries at the Rachna Industrial Park on the main Lahore-Sheikhupura Road.

The Rachna Power Plant will be the first-ever power unit to be developed on the basis of waste as a source of energy. The plant’s primary fuel will be Refused Derive Fuel (RDF) prepared from a mixture of municipal solid wastes and agro wastes, while the coal would be used as a backup fuel.

The technology of an integrated recovery of recyclable materials and production of the refused derive fuel will be adopted for this power plant.

The concept of the modern waste to energy plant has been proposed for the Rachna Power Plant, which is very different from the old incinerators due to the technological progress of the last decade.

Chief Executive Officer Mohsin Syed at NIP meeting in which investors of the Rechna Industrial Park were also present said the municipal solid waste of Lahore and surrounding area and the agro wastes, which including rice husk, corn and wood waste of the adjoining areas would be collected and transported to recycle it into a real fuel that could be easily stored, transported and efficiently burned at the plant site within the premises of the Rachna Industrial Park.

He said the power generation complex was proposed to consist of one unit of 6 MW and two units of 11 MW each with total gross capacity of the 28 MW and the net capacity at site would be 25.5 MW to provide operational flexibility and reliability in case of shut down of one or more units.

The power generation facility would be located within the premises of the Rachna Industrial Park located at 7.5 kilometers (km) Lahore-Sheikhupura Road on the Upper Chenab Canal. The site is at the distance of 18 km from the

Lahore-Shekhupura Motorway Interchange, 24 km from the Lahore city centre and 40 km from the Allama Iqbal International Airport Lahore and an area of 10 acres has already been earmarked for the power generation complex at the Rachna Industrial Park, the NIP chief explained.

The aim of the Rachna power project is to reduce pollution, preserve the fossil fuel, reduce the greenhouse gases and protect the ozone layer by utilizing the wastes collected from the cities of Lahore, Sheikhupura and surrounding areas for power generation, he said. For environmental standpoint, the Rachna Power Plant will be highly desirable.

The project will be designed on the basis of zero discharge by installing an on-site evaporation pond and air emission from the plant would meet quality standards prevailing anywhere in the world. Emission will be much lower than the World Bank’s guidelines due to the use of Circulating Fluidised Bed combustion with lime dosing to neutralise any SO2 emission. Socially, the project will be providing job opportunities to the people of the area, he concluded.


Riaz Haq said...

Here's Bloomberg story on power plant burning waste to produce electricity:

Swiss Water Tech Research & Development SA, a green-technology developer, said it’s in line to win about $200 million of contracts in Pakistan to supply clean-power plants that run on waste.
The Neuchatel, Switzerland-based company received a letter of intent from the Punjab state government and will provide the technology for a 100-megawatt project, Chief Operational Operator Ralph Hofmeier said in an interview. Swiss Water is also in talks with private companies for a similar amount of capacity that includes agreements last week with three firms for 17 megawatts.
The plants could run on liquid or solid waste to generate power more cheaply than coal, solar or wind projects, Hofmeier said in Karachi without elaborating. The company is seeking funds from Habib Bank Ltd. that would be backed by a sovereign guarantee from the Pakistan government, he said on Nov. 26.
Swiss Water officials in Pakistan last week signed a memorandum of understanding, Memoona Arslan, communications manager at state-owned Lahore Waste Management Co., said by phone from Lahore. Four thousand tons of solid waste will be needed to produce the 100 megawatts, Arslan said.
The payback period for such investments can be as short as 15 months, according to Hofmeier. A 100-megawatt plant in the U.S., where consumption rates differ from Pakistan, can power about 80,000 average homes, according to electric data.
Pakistan is the sixth-most populous nation with about 200 million residents. The country can suffer power, light and fan outages in some areas of up to 18 hours a day during summer months. Blackouts have sparked violent protests and affected a textile industry that accounts for 54 percent of exports.
Water contamination is such in the country that 15.9 million people, more than Ecuador’s population, lack access to safe drinking water, according to Ehsan Malik, chairman of Unilever Pakistan Ltd. Infectious water-borne diseases in Pakistan are a leading cause of infant deaths from diarrhea, the chief executive said last month.


Riaz Haq said...

Owing to the poor performance and non-serious attitude of bureaucrats, the government has finally wrapped up the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) Cell, depriving the country of the benefits of the international carbon credit facility.
The CDM Cell was established in 2005 at the Climate Change Division to provide technical and policy support and to advise the government in matters related to the implementation of the CDM strategy in Pakistan and approval of projects for carbon credits.
Carbon credits and carbon markets are a component of national and international attempts to cap greenhouse gas emissions and to allow market mechanisms to drive industrial and commercial processes towards lowering emissions.
Pakistan signed the Kyoto Protocol on January 11, 2005 and became eligible to benefit from the CDM, but since 2006, it has managed to get approval for only 29 projects, all with minor value for carbon credits.
The CDM was initiated under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol of the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in order to explore cost-effective options to mitigate the impact of climate change.
It is one of the instruments that help developing countries achieve sustainable development, while at the same time contribute to the ultimate objective of the UNFCCC.
Under the CDM, developed countries assist developing ones in implementing project activities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions in return for certified emission reductions, widely referred to as carbon credits.
“The CDM is the only instrument that is available for developing countries to assist them in achieving sustainable development and contributing to the ultimate objective of the convention,” a Climate Change Division official said on the condition of anonymity.
Under the CDM projects in Asia till 2012, China deposited 55.8 per cent, India 29.2 per cent, Indonesia 2.3 per cent, Vietnam 3.6 per cent, Thailand 2.3 per cent, Malaysia 2.3 per cent, South Korea 1.3 per cent, Philippines 1.1 per cent, Sri Lanka 0.4 per cent while Pakistan’s share was only 0.6 per cent.
Similarly, in terms of volume of CERs until 2012 in Asia, China’s carbon credit share was 72.7 per cent, India’s 15.6 per cent, Vietnam’s 1.0 per cent, Indonesia’s 1.6 per cent, Thailand’s 0.8 per cent, Malaysia’s 1.3 per cent, South Korea’s 5.8 per cent, Philippines’ 0.4 per cent, Sri Lanka’s 0.1 per cent, while Pakistan’s credit share was only 0.4 per cent.
The figures show that the CDM Cell did little to get its share of the millions of dollars available for carbon credits. Though CDM Cell officials regularly traveled abroad, no awareness programme, seminar or any other activity or capacity building programme was carried out by the cell in the last many years.