Over-production of sugar is a problem for the economy; we spend Rs. 15 lakh crores / year for import of petroleum products, hence we need to diversify the agriculture sector towards energy and power sectors, said Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Shri Nitin Gadkari while addressing the felicitation programme of National Cogeneration Awards 2022 in Mumbai today, August 27, 2022.
The Minister exhorted the industry of the crucial need to focus on alternative fuels with the help of futuristic technologies. “While 65% – 70% of our population depends on agriculture, our agricultural growth rate is 12%-13% only; the sugarcane industry and farmers are a growth engine for our industry. And the next move should be cogeneration to increase revenue from sugar. The industry should produce less sugar and produce more byproducts, embracing the vision for futuristic technologies and using the power of leadership to convert knowledge into wealth.” This will enable the farmers to become not only food growers, but energy producers as well, he said.
The Minister said that while our requirement was 280 lakh tonnes of sugar this year, the production was more than 360 lakh tonnes; this could be utilised due to the situation in Brazil. However, we need to divert production towards ethanol as the ethanol requirement is very high, the Minister pointed out. “Last year’s capacity was 400 crore litres of ethanol; we have taken a lot of initiatives to increase ethanol production. Now is the time for the industry to plan demand for ethanol, using technologies such as power generators run by bioethanol.”
The Minister told the industry that the Government has decided to launch flex engines in India. “Bajaj, Hero and TVS are already making flex engines, many car manufacturers too have promised to launch their models on flex engines.”
The Minister informed how a crucial problem on the calorific value of ethanol has been addressed in discussion with researchers from Russia. “Calorific value of ethanol was less, 1 litre of petrol equalled 1.3 litre of ethanol, but using Russian technology, we have found a way to make the calorific value of ethanol the same as that of petrol.”
The Minister informed that even auto-rickshaws can be run on bioethanol; in the construction equipment industry too, alternative fuels can be used, similarly, Germany has proven technology to run trains on bio-ethanol. A highly purified version of ethanol can also be used in the aviation industry; the aeronautical sector is doing research on how this can be done, he added. “Bio-CNG is way cheaper than CNG and can be made from rice straw and even from organic municipal waste, making it economically attractive.”
The Minister reminded the industry that there is scope of using harvesting technologies for cutting of sugarcane. “Harvesting machines can use ethanol as a fuel, making the circular economy possible.”
The Minister said that the sugar industry faces many problems and that we need rationalisation of power purchase rates; some states are not giving rates as per Central government policy, this is one reason why the sugarcane industry is not economically viable, the Minister said, asking the industry to raise the matter at appropriate forums.