Assessing the sustainability of bioethanol production in Nepal

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH

Abstract: Access to modern energy services derived from renewable sources is a prerequisite, not only for economic growth, rural development and sustainable development, but also for energy security and climate change mitigation. The least developed countries (LDCs) primarily use traditional biomass and have little access to commercial energy sources. They are more vulnerable to problems relating to energy security, air pollution, and the need for hard-cash currency to import fossil fuels. This thesis evaluates sugarcane-molasses bioethanol, a renewable energy source with the potential to be used as a transport fuel in Nepal.Sustainability aspects of molasses-based ethanol have been analyzed. Two important indicators for sustainability, viz. net energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) balances have been used to assess the appropriateness of bioethanol in the life cycle assessment (LCA) framework. This thesis has found that the production of bioethanol is energy-efficient in terms of the fossil fuel inputs required to produce it. Life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from production and combustion are also lower than those of gasoline. The impacts of important physical and market parameters, such as sugar cane productivity, the use of fertilizers, energy consumption in different processes, and price have been observed in evaluating the sustainability aspects of bioethanol production.The production potential of bioethanol has been assessed. Concerns relating to the fuel vs. food debate, energy security, and air pollution have also been discussed. The thesis concludes that the major sustainability indicators for molasses ethanol in Nepal are in line with the goals of sustainable development. Thus, Nepal could be a good example for other LDCs when favorable governmental policy, institutional set-ups, and developmental cooperation from donor partners are in place to strengthen the development of renewable energy technologies.

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