A renewable energy revolution, rooted in agriculture


The beginnings of a renewable energy revolution rooted in agriculture are taking shape in India with the first bio-energy plant of a private company in Sangrur district of Punjab having commenced commercial operations recently. It will produce Compressed Bio Gas (CBG) from paddy straw, thus converting agricultural waste into wealth.

About bioenergy:

Bioenergy is renewable energy made available from organic materials derived from biological sources. It is the energy derived from biomass such as bagasse, cotton stalk, coconut shell and wood, plants, etc.Compressed Bio Gas (CBG):Bio-gas is produced naturally through process of anaerobic decomposition from waste and bio-mass sources like agriculture residue, cattle dung, municipal solid waste, sugarcane press mud, sewage treatment plant (STP) waste, etc.It is called CBG after biogas is purified and compressed, which has pure methane content of over 95%. CBG is exactly similar to commercially available natural gas in its composition and energy potential. Its calorific value  and other properties are similar to CNG.

The need for CBG:

It has become common practice among farmers in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh to dispose of paddy stubble and the biomass by setting it on fire to prepare fields for the next crop, which has to be sown in a window of three to four weeks. The resultant clouds of smoke engulf the entire National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi and neighbouring States for several weeks between October to December. This plays havoc with the environment and affects human and livestock health.

The Capital’s air quality index (AQI) deteriorated slightly and continued to be in the “poor” category on Tuesday, according to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data of October 2022.Meanwhile, recently the Delhi government started spraying Pusa bio-decomposer solution in paddy fields in the city to reduce stubble burning. Commission for Air Quality Management in NCR and Adjoining Areas (CAQM) on Wednesday announced an immediate ban on all construction and demolition activity unregistered with the authority.

Some measures:

The Government of India has put in place several measures and spent a lot of money in tackling the problem. The Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas (CAQM) had developed a framework and action plan for the effective prevention and control of stubble burning. The framework/action plan includes:

  1. in-situ management: incorporation of paddy straw and stubble in the soil using heavily subsidised machinery (supported by crop residue management (CRM) Scheme of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare).
  2. Ex-situ management, ie, CRM efforts include the use of paddy straw for biomass power projects and co-firing in thermal power plants, and as feedstock for 2G ethanol plants, feed stock in CBG plants, fuel in industrial boilers, waste-to-energy (WTE) plants, and in packaging materials, etc.

Additionally, measures are in place to ban stubble burning, to monitor and enforce this, and initiating awareness generation. Despite these efforts, farm fires continued unabated.

A project in place

1. Ex-situ uses of rice straw:

In its search for a workable solution, NITI Aayog approached FAO India in 2019 to explore converting paddy straw and stubble into energy and identify possible ex-situ uses of rice straw to complement the in-situ programme. The results suggest that to mobilise 30% of the rice straw produced in Punjab, an investment of around ₹2,201 crore would be needed to collect, transport and store it within a 20-day period. This would reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by about 9.7 million tonnes of CO 2 equivalent and around 66,000 tonnes of PM 2.5.

2. Pellets:

A techno-economic assessment of energy technologies suggested that rice straw can be cost-effective for producing CBG and pellets. Pellets can be used in thermal power plants as a substitute of coal and CBG as a transport fuel.

Union Environment Ministry recently announced a ₹50 crore scheme to incentivise industrialists and entrepreneurs to set up paddy straw pelletisation and torrefaction plants. Paddy straw made into pellets or torrefied can be mixed along with coal in thermal power plants. This saves coal as well as reduces carbon emissions that would otherwise have been emitted were the straw burnt in the fields, as is the regular practice of most farmers in Punjab and Haryana.

3. SATAT Scheme:

With 30% of the rice straw produced in Punjab, a 5% CBG production target set by the Government of India scheme, “Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT)” can be met.

SATAT has following four objectives:

  1. Utilising more than 62 million metric tonnes of waste generated every year in India,
  2. Cutting down import dependence,
  3. Supplementing job creation in the country
  4. Reducing vehicular emissions and pollution from burning of agricultural / organic waste.

From paddy stubble, CBG valued at ₹46 per kg as per the SATAT scheme will be produced. Paddy straw from one acre of crop can yield energy output (CBG) worth more than ₹17,000 — an addition of more than 30% to the main output of grain. This initiative is an ideal example of a ‘wealth from waste’ approach and circular economy.

Way forward:

There are several other benefits of adopting CBG for a renewable energy revolution:

  1. the slurry or fermented organic manure from the plant (CBG) will be useful as compost to replenish soils heavily depleted of organic matter, and reduce dependence on chemical fertilizers.
  2. The plant will also provide employment opportunities to rural youth in the large value chain, from paddy harvest, collection, baling, transport and handling of biomass and in the CBG plant.
  3. Every year, about 27 million tonne of paddy straw is generated in Punjab and Haryana. About a third of this straw is from non-basmati rice, which cannot be fed to cattle as fodder because of its high silica content. This is usually burnt which adds to the air pollution crisis in Delhi NCR and adjoining areas. So converting it into CBG is the last resort.


From the point of view of environmental benefits, renewable energy, value addition to the economy, farmers’ income and sustainability, this initiative is a win-win situation. It is replicable and scaleable across the country and can boost the rural economy.

National Credits Framework (NCrF) and the education system


In a bid to integrate academic and vocational or skill-based education, Union Education Minister recently unveiled the draft report on the National Credits Framework (NCrF) and invited nationwide public consultations and suggestions on the proposed educational credits system.

About the National Credits Framework (NCrF):

  • Academic credits are a recognition that a student/learner has completed a course or unit of learning that corresponds to a qualification at a given level. Credits quantify the outcomes of learning. In a credit-based education system, a stipulated amount of credits based either on the number of hours of learning or student workload are required to progress from one level to another, subject to assessments such as examinations.
  • While there is currently no established credit mechanism for regular school education in India, there is a credit system under the open schooling system and a Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) for higher education. In order to “seamlessly integrate” the credits earned through school education, higher education and vocational & skill education, the Centre has drafted the National Credits Framework (NCrF) as an “inclusive umbrella Framework” under the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.
  • The Credits Framework also aims to democratise education by enabling learners to earn credits not just through academic education or classroom learning but through co-curriculars, extracurriculars, vocational learning, online or distance learning, recognition of prior learning, and informal learning
  • The draft document states that the total learning hours of the student could be creditised and no form of learning would remain unaccounted for; it may include:
  1. classroom teaching/ learning
  2. laboratory work/ innovation labs/ class projects/ assignments/ tutorials
  3. sports and games, yoga, physical activities
  4. performing arts, music, handicraft work
  5. social work, NCC, bag less days
  6. examinations/ class tests/ quizzes/ assessments
  7. vocational education, training and skilling
  8. minor/ major project work/ field visits in skill education
  9. on the job training (OJT)/ internship/ apprenticeship/ experiential learning including relevant experience and professional levels acquired

Mechanism of the integrated credits system :

  • The NCrF proposes the alignment of notional learning hours—the number of hours a student will spend to achieve a particular learning outcome across academic classes including preschool, school and higher education.
  • The credits and credit levels will be assigned uniformly between different areas of learning, i.e. arts and sciences, vocational and academic streams, and curricular and extra-curricular.
  • As for vocational education, training, and skilling, while the credit levels, learning hours and credits earned in a year remain the same, the forms of learning that nets credits changes.
  • Similarly, assignment of credits has also been prescribed for other forms of learning such as online learning, open or distance learning, blended learning, and also for relevant work experience and proficiency in a vocational skill. The NCrF will encompass all the National Qualification Frameworks that determine qualification levels in skill-based, school, and Higher education-
  1. National Higher Education Qualification Framework (NHEQF)
  2. National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF) and
  3. National School Education Qualification Framework (NSEQF)

About the Academic Bank of Credits (ABC):

  • All the credits earned by a learner through all the forms, streams, and levels of learning would be stored in the Academic Bank of Credits (ABC), which was introduced earlier this year just for higher education purposes. The ABC would be a digital repository of all credits earned by a student. When introduced for higher education recently, the ABC was envisioned to enable the transfer of credits across higher education institutions.
  • For instance, if a student pursuing a degree in one college wanted to pursue another elective or course simultaneously in another college, their credits would be universal.
  • The credits stored in the ABC would also be useful to a learner who wants to exit the education ecosystem mid-course or degree and use the stored credits to re-enter later.
  • The multiplication of credits earned with the NCrF credit level will provide the value of credit points a learner has, which can then be redeemed from the ABC while starting a course at any academic or vocational institute.
While launching the draft NCrF, the Education Minister said about the ABC: “An Aadhaar-enabled student registration will take place. After student registration, an ABC account will be opened. The deposit of degree and credits will take place in those accounts. There will be a knowledge locker along the lines of DigiLocker.”

The importance of the NCrF :

  • The NCrF aims to blur the lines or remove the “hard separation” between curricular, extracurricular, or co-curricular, among arts, commerce, and sciences, or between vocational or academic streams.
  • It urges educational institutions or regulators to form new curricula that allow for actual choice-based multidisciplinary learning, where a student has the ability to design their own course structure.
  • One of the main objectives of the NCrF is to bring skilling and vocational learning to the mainstream, by creating equivalence of a vocational education and skilling program with general education programs with or without any additional academic learning.
  • There are occasions when learners pursue alternative schooling, home-schooling, or online schooling or have to give up their education mid-way for various reasons. The national credit framework will act as an enabler in this regard and regulators shall be required to define the entry and exit criteria of the programs being offered by them.
  • The NCrF system also supports educational acceleration for students with gifted learning abilities and recognition of prior learning for the workforce that has acquired knowledge and skills informally through traditional family inheritance, work experience or other methods.


The NCrF is a step forward in the NEP 2020 aims of transforming India into a vibrant knowledge society and global knowledge superpower by making both school and college education more holistic, flexible, multidisciplinary, suited to 21st century needs and aimed at bringing out the unique capabilities of each student.


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