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Avani’s Bio Energy Programme is an innovation in energy supply and sustainable livelihoods for rural communities in Central Himalaya. The central component of the program is a pine-needle-fueled power station, with local women and men gathering and delivering all the pine needles and other materials needed to sustain the station. The Bio Energy Program helps create a lasting source of clean energy – including low-cost cooking charcoal and energy for light and heat – for 100-150 village households as well as stable livelihoods for approximately 100 families.

The inspiration for this programme came from looking for a way to remove the pine needles from local forest floors. Monoculture pine forests that have grown in the middle elevations of the Himalayan region are depriving the local population of water, fodder and fuel wood. The pine needles litter the forest floor during dry summer months and form a carpet on the soil, causing the rainwater to run down the slopes before it percolates into the soil. The highly flammable pine needles cause forest fires that inhibit all other species from regenerating.

The Bio Energy Programme employs community members to remove pine needles from large areas of forest floor, simultaneously augmenting local incomes and preventing forest fires. The charcoal produced as a byproduct is sold back to the community reducing deforestation, due to the dependence on forest for fuel wood, as well as ensuring better health through a smoke-free environment.

We began to explore pine needle gasification as a sustainable solution in 2006, and by 2009 set up a pilot 9 kilowatt-hour pine needle power station on Avani’s campus. Since then, the power station has been used to meet the energy needs of the entire campus.

In 2012, to scale this innovation and bring it to the surrounding communities, we established Avani Bio Energy as an independent power company. In 2013, we began setting up our first village-level 120 KW commercial power plant in Chachret. Now we are planning to set up for four more plants at sites that have already been identified.

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Avani has also developed an efficient, inexpensive charcoal cook stove made entirely from locally available materials. Local people will be trained to manufacture and repair the stoves, using a training model similar to the successful solar lantern system, generating more livelihoods.

By increasing the availability of reliable electricity, we will be driving economic growth in the area. This will, in turn, reduce the migration of men, keep families together, and contribute to the well being of the community as a whole.

Generating electricity from renewable sources also aligns well with local government policy and contributes to reduction in carbon emissions on a global scale.

 


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