On September 9, 2023, Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with the leaders of Singapore, Bangladesh, Italy, USA, Brazil, Argentina, Mauritius and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), launched the Global Biofuel Alliance (GBA) on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in New Delhi. This key initiative under India’s G20 Presidency was spearheaded by India, United States and Brazil, the leading biofuel producers and consumers. So far, 19 countries and 12 international organisations[i] have already joined the GBA with the intent to foster global collaboration for the advancement and widespread adoption of biofuels.
In this light, this viewpoint explores the importance of the Alliance in unlocking bioenergy access and its probable implications.
Adoption of Biofuels
The idea of GBA was first proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at India Energy Week (February 2023) where he underscored that the “expansion of alternative energy sources like bio fuels, ethanol, compressed biogas”, is among the four major verticals of India’s energy sector strategy.[ii] With the launch of GBA at the 18th G20 Summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted that it “marks a watershed moment in our quest towards sustainability and clean energy”.[iii] US President Biden also mentioned that the alliance is “a partnership to make progress in our shared commitment to deploy cleaner, greener fuels around the world that help meet our decarbonization goals.”[iv] Further, signaling a push for more green energy globally, Brazil's President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said, “Finally, the world is now perceiving that biofuel could solve the major issue which is the greenhouse gas effects, and emissions...”.[v]
GBA brings together Governments, International Organisations, and industry to facilitate the adoption of biofuels. The alliance aims to serve as a catalytic platform that will act as a central repository of knowledge and an expert hub, facilitate technology advancements, intensify the utilisation of sustainable biofuels, and shape robust standard setting and certification through the participation of a wide spectrum of stakeholders.[vi] The key benefit of biofuels is that they can provide a low-carbon option for fossil fuels-based liquid transportation fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and aviation fuels, and aid in reducing carbon emissions.
The Alliance also recognizes the potential benefits of biofuels in combating climate change, responding to higher energy consumption, and achieving SDGs, particularly SDG 7 which seeks to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”.[vii] GBA focuses on the development of second-generation (2G) ethanol which is categorized as a sustainable biofuel derived from agricultural waste, used cooking oil, and processed animal residues like fats.[viii] The unanimously adopted New Delhi Declaration by the G20 members also recognised “the importance of sustainable biofuels in our zero and low-emission development strategies,” and “the setting up of a Global Biofuels Alliance.”[ix]
This renewed focus on clean fuels, particularly biofuels, stems from the increasing consensus on the need to diversify the energy requirement in the wake of ongoing and emerging crises, disrupting energy supply chains. The Ukraine crisis was a wake-up call as it caused severe disruption to the global crude oil supply, leaving several countries to find alternatives to import petrol and diesel. It is estimated that in 2022 liquid biofuels avoid use of nearly 2 million barrels of oil per day in the transport sector and helped secure energy supplies.[x] Several countries have already started decarbonizing their energy requirement, particularly in the transportation sector, through the announcement of electric vehicle (EV) policies and switching to blended fuels and battery production.
Structuring Biofuel Mandates
Experts underscore that enforcing more stringent biofuel mandates is crucial for the Asia-Pacific economies to reach their current net-zero commitments.[xi] On this front, Brazil, India, and the United States have showcased six policy pillars that have driven considerable growth in the production and use of biofuels. These include designing long-term strategies, implementing the right investment signals, supporting innovation, ensuring supplies are secure and affordable, addressing sustainability concerns early, and collaborating with the international community. As estimated by the International Energy Agency (IEA), these policy interventions resulted in biofuels providing 22% of Brazil’s and 7% of the United States transport energy in 2022. Further, India’s ethanol shares of energy use in gasoline vehicles doubled since 2019 reaching 6% in 2022.[xii]
With the renewed focus on biofuels and for achieving the net-zero commitments, the United States' latest amended Renewable Fuel Standards aims to increase the production of biofuels and substitute about 1,40,000 barrels per day of crude oil imports by 2025 with biofuels. Similarly, India announced the setting up of 12 2G bio-refineries with the aim to meet 20% ethanol blending by 2025.[xiii] At the global level, the ethanol market was valued at USD 99 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5% by 2032 and surpass USD 162 billion by 2032.[xiv]
Implications for India
As per the IEA, due to the net-zero targets, the growth potential of the biofuels market will grow by 3.5-5 times by 2050. This will create huge opportunities for India as it aims to reduce dependency on crude oil and decrease carbon emissions in the transportation sector. India’s 2018 National Biofuel Policy, amended in 2022, and the Roadmap for Ethanol Blending in India 2020-25 are presently guiding the development of this sector. Countries have shown interest in replicating Indian policies and good practices in the domain. In this regard, delegations from countries including Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda are reportedly scheduled to visit India given their interest in replicating India’s ethanol blending and biogas initiatives.[xv]
Thus, the Alliance's objective of sharing good practices and investment scenarios will aid in accelerating India’s existing biofuel programs such as Pradhan Mantri JI-VAN (Jaiv Indhan- Vatavaran Anukool Fasal Awashesh Nivaran) Yojana[xvi], Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT)[xvii], and Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources Dhan (GOBARdhan)[xviii]. This will, in turn, benefit the farming community in India and its partner countries by contributing to their income, creating job opportunities, and elevating their status from "Annadata", or farmers, into "Urjadata" or energy producers as recently remarked by Shri Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas of India.[xix]
Thus, over the next years, GBA will work in collaboration with its members for sharing best practices, investment models, and blending mandates. It will complement the initiatives of the existing regional and international organisations in the fields of bio-energy, bio-economy, and energy transition. It will aid in the development and deployment of sustainable biofuels through the formulation of national policy, development of new markets, increasing the use of biofuels in existing ones, evolving technical competency, and accelerating technology deployment for commercialisation of biofuels.
*Avni Sablok, Research Associate, Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal.
[i] Press Information Bureau, GoI, Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, “Historic moment in Global Energy Sector: Global Biofuels Alliance (GBA) announced at G20 event”, September 9, 2023. Available at: https://pib.gov.in/PressReleaseIframePage.aspx?PRID=1955836 (Accessed on: September 18, 2023)
G20 countries (07) supporting GBA: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India, Italy, South Africa, USA
G20 Invitee Countries (04) supporting GBA: Bangladesh, Singapore, Mauritius, UAE
Non G20 (08) supporting GBA: Iceland, Kenya, Guyana, Paraguay, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Finland
International organizations (12): World Bank, Asian Development Bank, World Economic Forum, World LPG Organization, UN Energy for All, UNIDO, Biofutures Platform, International Civil Aviation Organization, International Energy Agency, International Energy Forum, International Renewable Energy Agency, World Biogas Association.
[ii] PMINDIA, “PM’s speech at India Energy Week 2023 in Bengaluru, Karnataka”, February 6, 2023. Available at: https://www.pmindia.gov.in/en/news_updates/pms-speech-at-india-energy-week-2023-in-bengaluru-karnataka/#:~:text=We%20are%20aiming%20to%20produce,a%20great%20opportunity%20for%20you. (Accessed on: September 26, 2023)
[iii] Statement by PM Narendra Modi after the launch of GBA, Twitter, September 9, 2023. Available at: https://twitter.com/narendramodi/status/1700495157081313430?t=nzy5wfpiGgINoPumqw5fTA&s=08 (Accessed on: September 26, 2023)
[iv] Statement by President Biden after the launch of GBA, Twitter September 10, 2023. Available at: https://twitter.com/POTUS/status/1700596041286860952?t=l-xtNO7BV__XpxhPFku9jg&s=08 (Accessed on: September 26, 2023)
[v] The Economic Times, “Happiest decision for Brazil": Brazil President Lula on Global Biofuels Alliance”, September 11, 2023. Available at: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/business/happiest-decision-for-brazil-brazil-president-lula-on-global-biofuels-alliance/articleshow/103567923.cms?from=mdr (Accessed on: September 26, 2023)
[vi] Ministry of External Affairs, “Launch of the Global Biofuel Alliance (GBA)”, September 9, 2023. Available at: https://mea.gov.in/press-releases.htm?dtl/37092/Launch_of_the_Global_Biofuel_Alliance_GBA (Accessed on: September 18, 2023)
[viii] The Hindu, “What is driving the Global Biofuels Alliance?”, September 17, 2023. Available at: https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/what-is-driving-the-global-biofuels-alliance-explained/article67316151.ece (Accessed on: September 25, 2023)
[ix] G20, “G20 New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration”, September 9-10, 2023. Available at: https://www.g20.org/content/dam/gtwenty/gtwenty_new/document/G20-New-Delhi-Leaders-Declaration.pdf (Accessed on: September 19, 2023)
[x] IEA, “Biofuel Policy in Brazil, India and the United States- Insights for the Global Biofuel Alliance”, July 24, 2023. Available at: https://iea.blob.core.windows.net/assets/338e96c1-7da1-4894-b81b-57ff7bf13040/BiofuelPolicyinBrazil%2CIndiaandtheUnitedStates.pdf (Accessed on: September 22, 2023)
[xi] Asia Society Policy Institute, “Getting Asia to Net Zero”, April 19, 2023. Available at: https://asiasociety.org/policy-institute/getting-asia-net-zero/pan-regional-report (Accessed on: September 20, 2023)
[xii] IEA, “Biofuel Policy in Brazil, India and the United States- Insights for the Global Biofuel Alliance”, July 24, 2023. Available at: https://iea.blob.core.windows.net/assets/338e96c1-7da1-4894-b81b-57ff7bf13040/BiofuelPolicyinBrazil%2CIndiaandtheUnitedStates.pdf (Accessed on: September 25, 2023)
[xiii] The Hindu, “What is driving the Global Biofuels Alliance?”, September 17, 2023. Available at: https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/what-is-driving-the-global-biofuels-alliance-explained/article67316151.ece (Accessed on: September 25, 2023)
[xiv] Press Information Bureau, GoI, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, “Historic moment in Global Energy Sector: Global Biofuels Alliance (GBA) announced at G20 event”, September 9, 2023. Available at: https://pib.gov.in/PressReleaseIframePage.aspx?PRID=1955836 (Accessed on: September 26, 2023)
[xv] Business Standard, “African nations set to visit India for ethanol blending, biogas studies”, September 20, 2023. Available at: https://www.business-standard.com/india-news/african-nations-to-visit-india-to-study-ethanol-blending-biogas-schemes-123091901090_1.html (Accessed on: September 26, 2023)
[xvi] Press Information Bureau, GoI, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, “Pradhan Mantri JI-VAN Yojana”, July 21, 2023. Available at: https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1843441 (Accessed on: September 26, 2023)
“Pradhan Mantri JI-VAN (Jaiv Indhan- Vatavaran Anukool fasal awashesh Nivaran) Yojana” scheme provides financial support to integrated bio-ethanol projects for setting up Second Generation (2G) ethanol projects in the country using lignocellulosic biomass and other renewable feedstock.
[xvii] Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, “Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation”. Available at: https://mopng.gov.in/en/pdc/investible-projects/alternate-fuels/sustainable-alternative-towards-affordable-transportation (Accessed on: September 26, 2023)
"Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation" (SATAT) has been taken up to extract economic value from bio-mass waste in the form of Compressed Bio Gas (CBG) and bio-manure.
[xviii] Press Information Bureau, GoI, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, “Swachh Bharat Mission launches GOBAR-DHAN to promote wealth and energy from waste”, April 30, 2018. Available at: https://pib.gov.in/Pressreleaseshare.aspx?PRID=1530719 (Accessed on: September 26, 2023)
Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources Dhan (GOBARdhan) Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources Dhan (GOBARdhan) is a vital umbrella initiative of Government of India, based on the whole of Government approach and aims to convert waste to wealth towards promoting circular economy. The scheme aims to positively impact village cleanliness and generate wealth and energy from cattle and organic waste as well as create new rural livelihood opportunities and enhancing income for farmers and other rural people.
[xix] ET Energy World, “Global Biofuel Alliance aims at transforming farmers as 'Annadata' into 'Urjadat': Puri”, September 13, 2023. Available at: https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/oil-and-gas/global-biofuel-alliance-aims-at-transforming-farmers-as-annadata-into-urjadata-puri/103622445 (Accessed on: September 27, 2023)