Turning manure into renewable energy in rural China: Jialing China Biogas Project

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renewable energy china : local farmer working

Most rural villages of China’s Sichuan province have poor waste management practices. The improper disposal of solid waste releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas and the second largest contributor to climate change. In this region, fuelwood or coal is also the primary source of energy, which results in deforestation and both indoor and outdoor pollution when burned. Our Jialing China Biogas project addresses both issues at once through the construction of biodigesters for domestic use, which decompose manure to produce both biogas and organic fertiliser.

Why Sichuan?

Despite recent accomplishments in alleviating poverty in China’s Sichuan Province, its rural population continues to be among the poorest in the country. Until very recently, 161 of the 183 counties in Sichuan were poverty-stricken, with 45 living in extreme poverty.

To some extent, the difficulty in lifting the province out of poverty owes to an earthquake that caused large-scale destruction back in 2008. Natural disasters are a common occurrence in Sichuan and are a growing risk due to climate change, devastating already vulnerable populations.

Projects like our Jialing China Biogas increase climate resilience and improve livelihoods of disadvantaged communities by reducing dependence on fossil fuels through the provision of renewable sources of energy, cutting down energy costs and generating new income opportunities.

The benefits of biodigesters: for climate, health, and income

Biodigesters are closed structures which create conditions for the biological decomposition of organic material, in this case by capturing the methane emissions from animal manure to produce biogas. This conversion of waste to energy allows users to meet domestic demands that would otherwise be satisfied through the harvesting and burning of fuelwood, which has traditionally contributed to the deforestation and land degradation in Sichuan. Treating animal waste in closed containers also eliminates odours, prevents the spread of infectious diseases, and reduces the risk of polluting water bodies.

Through our project, 10,000 jobs have been created to support, during its lifetime, the installation of these systems in up to one million low-income rural households. So far, the programme has equipped almost 400,000 small-holder farmer households with biodigesters, reaching 1.68 million people. To encourage self-sufficiency and empower local communities, all beneficiaries are trained in their operation and maintenance. When needed, farmers receive free maintenance services from 2,000 people who, under the programme, have obtained qualification as biogas technicians.

In combination with biodigesters, the project distributes biogas cookstoves to provide not only a clean source of energy but also a smoke-free cooking environment, reducing indoor air pollution and the incidence of associated health issues.

To date, the use of both technologies has avoided the emission of more than 1.9 million tCO2e and reduced the reliance on coal by saving 550,000 tonnes.

Besides fighting environmental degradation and improving public health, the project also diversifies farmer’s revenue. In addition to biogas, the production process releases bio-slurry, a nutrient rich residue of manure digestion which can be used as a natural fertiliser. When applied on the land they depend on, farmers in Sichuan are able to improve soil fertility and enhance crop yield, contributing to food security and generating higher incomes from the sale of agricultural products. Combined with lower energy costs from the use of biogas, bio-slurry has exponentially increased households’ disposable income by up to 40%.

renewable energy china : building biodigestors

What the beneficiaries say

Zeng Yuying and her family live in a village in the district of Jian Yang county, in the eastern part of the Sichuan province. Annually, the family lives on around 1,500 euros, from the income generated through the repair of local infrastructure and the sale of livestock.

Before the construction of the digester, the family was using a traditional stove to cook, which was powered by firewood.

“Biogas is hygienic, convenient, free of charge and is available all the time. It is also much cleaner than firewood. We have been able to use it to cook all our meals, except when we have too many guests. It really has a lot of benefits.” – Zeng Yuying.

renewable energy china : Cooking with biogas

Carbon finance to unlock full potential

Carbon finance flows have been fundamental for the project’s success so far. All of our offsetting projects are additional, meaning that the reduction of emissions would have not occurred if the project had not been implemented and supported by the revenue of carbon credits.

Thanks to our Jialing China Biogas project, around 300 million euros have been invested up to now in domestic biogas technology, related services, and other energy and waste management infrastructure to improve the living conditions of rural populations in Sichuan.

Further carbon finance is needed to continue to run the project and reach its full potential. Annually, the project is capable of saving 690,000 and 340,000 tonnes of firewood and coal, respectively. In the process, the emission of around 800,000 tCO2e are planned to be avoided each year, up to 20 million tCO2e during its 28-year lifetime.

Please get in touch with us if you are interested in supporting our offsetting projects like Jialing China Biogas.

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