Rural Hybrid Energy Enterprise Systems

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Sch of Geography

Abstract

About 20% of the UK population and 72% of the Indian population live in rural communities, where access to resources, amenities and services are inherently different to those of urban dwellers. Rural communities in both countries share similar challenges. Limited rural transport makes access to services difficult, time-consuming and expensive which disadvantage the poor, elderly and sick. Access to healthcare and affordable energy (for heating, cooling, cooking, refrigeration, lighting, household, IT use) is limited in rural areas and lack of employment opportunities continues to drive rural to urban migration, especially amongst young people. Universal access to clean and efficient energy sources has long been viewed as critical to global needs and expanding access to good quality, stable, energy options in rural areas is therefore essential. Not only does this help to address the problem of dependence on fossil fuels; it also enables rural areas in the UK and India to benefit from the multiplier effect of energy services on health, education, transport, telecommunications, water, sanitation as well as from investments in and the productivity of income-generating activities in agriculture, industry, and tertiary sectors. In this project we aim to develop community-scale hybrid renewable energy systems to bridge the urban-rural divide and promote a new model of sustainable rural living. Through technological innovations in small-scale energy generation coupled with appropriately tailored rural enterprise business models we will create Rural Hybrid Energy Enterprise Systems (RHEES) which can be adapted for local needs in the UK and India enabling communities to: tackle energy poverty; increase revenue generation to individuals and households; create new opportunities for rural industries; generate employment; decrease transport costs; improve socioeconomic status; and through using renewable energy technologies reduce environmental impact and promote natural resource conservation.

Different forms of energy may be crucial for increasing the range, quality and productivity of income-generating activity. In rural areas biomass is one of the most versatile energy-generating options, because of the diversity of feedstocks in rural areas, the range of conversion technologies available and the potential to provide a continuous and steady flow of energy services. We aim to develop innovative, low-carbon, sustainable biomass-fuelled hybrid energy systems that utilise wastes and residues and are designed at a scale suitable for rural community implementation to be affordable and to provide enterprise opportunities through value-added by-products. Through novel research the key technological challenges required for the wide scale deployment of anaerobic digestion and gasification in rural communities combined with fuel cell technology will be met whilst employing close integration with the resource and community aspects of the proposal. By engaging end-users in all stages of the development process, we aim to develop affordable and sustainable growth of our community-scale energy solutions to bridge the urban-rural divide.

Planned Impact

The aim of this proposal is to design, develop, operate and maintain small-scale Rural Hybrid Energy Enterprise Systems (RHEES) considering relevant social, cultural, economic, education, ethical and environmental issues, which will ultimately bridge the urban-rural energy divide in typical rural communities of India and UK. The impacts of this proposal will be achieved through technological innovations in small-scale energy generation coupled with appropriately-tailored rural enterprise business models which can be adapted to derive livelihood benefits to meet local needs. Ultimately by scale-up and wider adoption, the technology and models developed in the proposal could have far reaching impacts for rural communities globally. Through deployment and assessment of these new technologies and their contribution to rural community empowerment derived from the benefits that tailored enterprise business models bring, we seek to create rural energy services that will impact on all of the themes outlined in the BURD call (energy, enterprise and healthcare) to make rural life an attractive and sustainable option for individuals and households.

The technology development and resource mapping elements of this proposal will provide clean, sustainable, stable and affordable energy. The use of waste biomass and renewable energy sources, coupled with the generation of sustainable liquid fuels, will result in a reduced reliance of rural communities on fossil fuels and ultimately in a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Over and above providing a stable energy supply, the outputs of this proposal will: tackle fuel and energy poverty; increase revenue generation to individuals and households; create new opportunities for, and benefits to, rural industries and generate employment and decrease transport costs. This will ultimately lead to better lifestyles; improved socioeconomic status; and through using renewable energy technologies reduce environmental impact and promote natural resource conservation. R&D on digested biomass residues, digester liquid and char will enable production of about 10-15 value added products (VAP) so that in addition to energy, biogas and compost, some products could be sold locally and to urban areas.

A sustainable energy supply will also lead to significant healthcare benefits, for example: clean, domestic water supply reduces medical expenditure; withdrawing household smoke derived from biomass cookstoves through use of biogas avoids respiratory diseases including TB; energy-secure agriculture would ensure lower malnutrition and healthier people (especially benefiting women and children); warm housing stock in winter and cooling in summer will increase well-being particularly amongst the elderly and infirm.

The research will have significant impact on education in rural communities. Training and up-skilling villagers in working with renewable energy sources and providing a basis for encouraging the application of business acumen in terms of enterprise optimisation and the production of value-added commodities will have significant impact on rural communities. The demonstration and development of technologies at field sites in both countries provides and ideal route for achieving this impact.

An important output of the project will be tools and models to provide objective assessments of the success of the implementation of technologies within different regions and countries. Through continual engagement with NGOs, energy researchers, policy think tanks and policy makers (see pathways to impact) it is proposed that the results of this research will lead to a step change in technology implementation, supporting localism agendas for rural communities and ultimately for the deployment and support of decentralised electricity systems in the UK and India.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description We have found that despite being common across many developing countries, small-scale, locally and environmentally-appropriate and affordable bioenergy technologies (comprising anaerobic digestion and biomass gasification systems) are largely absent from the UK context. Policies and incentives currently favour large-scale, on-farm or industrial facilities rather than community or household-scale biomass based renewable energy alternatives. Drivers for adoption amongst interested groups seem to focus entirely on 'green credentials' and 'low carbon' potential rather than energy poverty agendas. Rural energy poverty in the UK is still largely invisible and ignored.
In India despite a long tradition of small-scale energy technologies the main challenges around uptake are a lack of competitive public-private micro-finance, innovative policy instruments and the readiness amongst poor communities to pay an appropriate and affordable amount for energy services (many are used to free and unsustainable handouts). Community schemes are problematic in this context given a lack of successful case studies. We hope to address this in a poor, off-grid village community in Assam and work focuses on appropriate stakeholder engagement activities to enable individual, family and community buy-in to the scheme and its financing prior to any technologies being installed.
Exploitation Route We are developing a new business model which has the potential for widespread adoption (within and outside the UK and India) and can be applied to a range of technologies and development agendas if the case study example proves successful.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Energy,Environment,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Healthcare,Transport

 
Description We are installing biogas systems in an off-grid community at Jhawani village in Assam to directly impact on improved energy service access and livelihood benefits. This work has involved creating a new legal entity, the Jahawani Village Cooperative and a business enterprise model to run the energy technologies has been developed.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Energy,Environment
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic

 
Description BBSRC Brazil Partnering Award: Sustainable Soil Management for Improved Food Security and Bioenergy Delivery
Amount £43,387 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/J019933/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2012 
End 11/2015
 
Description BBSRC DTP and DEFRA Food and Environment Research Agency: Effects of veterinary drug residues on biogas production and digestate quality
Amount £72,000 (GBP)
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2012 
End 09/2016
 
Description British Council INSPIRE: Renewable energy from animal wastes: Benefits for agriculture and society
Amount £44,604 (GBP)
Funding ID SP-02 
Organisation British Council 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2014 
End 12/2016
 
Description ESRC Knowledge Exchange Grants
Amount £48,877 (GBP)
Funding ID ES/M006255/1 
Organisation Economic and Social Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2015 
End 03/2016
 
Description Joint Network on Sustainable Cities and Urbanisation in India
Amount £193,581 (GBP)
Funding ID ES/P000517/1 
Organisation Economic and Social Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2016 
End 05/2017
 
Description Libyan Government PhD scholarship: Anaerobic digestion co-digestion using problematic and invasive weeds species
Amount £110,400 (GBP)
Organisation Government of Libya 
Sector Public
Country Libya
Start 11/2014 
End 10/2017
 
Description Malaysia Government PhD scholarship: Synergies between biochar and plant growth promoting bacteria
Amount £110,400 (GBP)
Organisation Government of Malaysia 
Sector Public
Country Malaysia
Start 10/2013 
End 09/2016
 
Description Newton CONFAP Centres for Agricultural Nitrogen
Amount £1,089,209 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/N013204/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2016 
End 12/2018
 
Description Newton Fund CONFAP Research Partnerships Call
Amount £48,800 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/M029212/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2015 
End 06/2016
 
Description Newton Fund CONFAP Research Partnerships Call
Amount £49,100 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/02914X/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2015 
End 12/2015
 
Description Newton Fund RCUK-DIPI-Ristekdikti-MoHE-DOST-TRF Research Partnerships Call
Amount £41,621 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/P018513/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2017 
End 12/2018
 
Description Optimising Phosphate Recovery from Community Bioenergy Systems: Low Cost Sustainable Fertiliser Production for Rural Communities
Amount £36,072 (GBP)
Funding ID UGC86 
Organisation UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2013 
End 03/2015
 
Description Options for the Use of Quality Digestates in Horticulture and other New Markets
Amount £40,321 (GBP)
Funding ID OMK006-007 
Organisation Waste and Resources Action Programme 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2012 
End 07/2013
 
Description Community renewable energy users workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This event was held in Calthorpe Community Garden, Gray's Inn Rd, London to share experienced and learn about public opinions of community energy systems. In particular views around drivers for adoption, low carbon transitions and energy poverty and issues around waste and benefits were discussed. Outcomes included shared findings with informants and support of their future planning using Action Learning Set methods.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Biogas Users Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 35 members of the local village communities attended a discussion forum to establish issues and opportunities around the use of household biogas systems in India. Discussions involved local business, technical experts, and men and women from local villages and enabled a frank exchange of views. Existing practices were shared and some households changed their management practice as they learned new techniques. A covered waste management system was installed collaboratively in one household as a demonstration and a visit arranged to share the learning from this system.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Blacktoft Sands RSPB Open Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This was part of an event to celebrate work done on small-scale energy from biomass. Participation made new contacts and networks and sparked interest in the research and the technologies.

RSPB Blacktoft Sands have provided biomass samples for testing (common reed) and are keen to collaborate on the use of small-scale gasification to deliver energy services and environmental management on their reserve
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Chatsworth House Renewable Energy Schools Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Presentation and practical demonstration sparked discussion and engagement with children of a range of ages and their teachers.


Enabled new partnership with Chatsworth House Estate who have provided biomass for our project experiments and collaboration with their newly built gasifier and renewable energy centre.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Expert workshop on energy enterprise models 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact This was an engagement event held in Chennai, India and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry focused on novel business and enterprise models for off-grid community energy entrepreneurs. Discussions were you to inform enterprise development for the demonstration village in Assam
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Small-scale Biomass Gasification for Sustainable and Local Energy Production 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact General discussion and debate with the audience

After the event we received requests to present at Scibar in Sheffield in 2015 and at a public Café Scientifique in Nottingham in 2015
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Visit to a rural extension office in India 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The presentation sparked a lot of interest and a number of participants requested my contact details for further information

Improved awareness of the potential of rural energy services from agricultural wastes and residues and the environmental benefits of using the by-products of these technologies for crop growth
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Women in Energy Event, Warwick University 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Professor Michèle Clarke presented her work on bridging the urban-rural divide to a mixed audience of academics, students and researchers followed by general discussion and questions which ranged from specific to the project to the importance of gender equity and the Athena SWAN scheme

The audience were proactive and I gained some useful insights into potential additional technological approaches that may meet the needs of poor rural householders. I also met new potential collaborators for future research in this area
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014