Prime Minister Narendra Modi probably didn't have this in mind when he demonetised a huge chunk of currency this month but the invalid notes could be used to fill a crucial infrastructure gap – generate electricity: Like they do in China.
The Indian government will soon be saddled with some “23 billion worthless bank notes”, said a Bloomberg report, adding the invalid currency will mostly be used in landfills or turned into biomass blocks for industrial use.
Officials pondering what to do with that massive mass of paper could pick up a tip or two from China. The trend started here in 2014, when a company in central China began to burn damaged notes to generate power.
“One tonne of the damaged paper money can contribute to generation of 660 kilowatt hours of electricity, with reduced emissions when compared to coal, according to the company, which is authorised by the local branch of the People's Bank of China (PBoC), the country's central bank,” official Xinhua news agency reported at the time.
The project was carried out in Luoyang city of central Henan province.
“With Henan's current unused paper money counted, the company can help generate 1.32 million kWh of electricity annually, which is equal to burning 4,000 tonnes of coal,” the Xinhua report had said.
The experiment was carried out on a larger scale when the Chinese government issued a new 100 yuan note in November 2015 and began to gradually withdraw older notes of the same denomination.
“As people welcome the new 100 yuan banknote issued nine days ago, its old version is heading for ashes as billions worth of the old notes are burned in east China's Jiangsu Province,” Xinhua had reported.
“They measure money not by face value, but by weight. Tonnes of mutilated 100 yuan banknotes are shredded and sent to Yancheng (in Jiangsu) via truck. Each truck carries 30 tonnes of shredded currency, the original value of which is worth three billion yuan (about $0.5 billion),” Zhu Hongwei, a company engineer said. “We transport five trucks every month.
“Considering 100-kilowatt-hour usage of electricity for a family per month, a truck of burned currency can supply a single family with power for 25 years, generating 30,000 kilowatt hours.”
The report added: “Moreover, the remaining ashes after incineration can be made into bricks, providing people with apartments built from money-made walls.”
Between May 2014 and November 2015, the company incinerated about 2,000 tonnes of mutilated banknotes.
India’s Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes are dead but could still light up a lot of homes.