In a move aimed at making our cities clean by way of better trash management, the government is set to make it mandatory for power distribution companies to buy 100% of electricity generated from municipal solid waste.
The power ministry has finalised a cabinet note to amend the electricity act 2003 and incorporate this provision among others. “The proposal will come up for cabinet approval shortly,” said a government official. The act as of now provides for purchase of electricity from only two renewable energy sources — wind and solar.
Currently, only 23% of municipal waste — which includes household and commercial garbage and construction debris — produced in a day is processed or properly disposed of. India generates 24 MW (mega watts) of power from such waste at four waste-to-energy plants with a capacity of 41 MW. But it has the potential to generate 500 MW.
Waste-to-energy is currently economically unviable due to high generation costs, which discourage private players from setting up such plants.
But the government hopes the amended law will change all this. “The Centre has already committed a 20% grant for solid waste management projects under the Swachh Bharat Mission. The move mandating discoms to purchase 100% power will incentivise more developers to set up such plants,” said a government official.
The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission has recently fixed a tariff of Rs 7.04 per unit for power derived from municipal solid waste. “Municipal corporations across the country will provide the land to set up such plants and the waste to run them,” another official said.
A key component of Swachh Bharat, the government’s flagship programme to make India clean by 2019, is to provide solid waste management facilities in 4,041 cities and towns.
This aside, the government is also promoting the setting up of compost plants to process biodegradable waste. To make compost economically viable, the ministry of chemicals and fertilizers has moved a cabinet note to provide market development assistance to the tune of Rs 1,500 per tonne on sale of city compost to farmers.
Presently, India has 45 plants with a capacity to produce 7.09 lakh metric tonne of compost. But they produce only 1.53 lakh metric tonne per year as the market for the product is poor.