Speaking at a two-day national conference on power, instrumentation, energy and control at AMU, Sohail Akhtar, director in the ministry of new and renewable energy, said: “India was taking serious steps to promote alternative technologies that used bio-fuels and solar and wind energy.India also has plans to produce more bio-fuels and electric vehicles to save petrol for other vital needs.”
Presently 35 percent of petrol-based fuels was used up by the transport sector, he added.
A number of innovative research is happening in institutes like the Institute of Chemical Technology and Indian Institute of Chemical Technology in next generation biofuels.
However there have been strong critics like G M Pillai, IAS officer and former director general of the Maharashtra Energy Development Authority and Director General of World Institute of Sustainable Energy who has said “The sheer volumes involved and the large area of land required to produce biofuels make them an unviable option.”
Further in a conference in Pune he said, “To meet the 20 per cent blending target for biodiesel in India, we require 22 million tonnes of biodiesel by year 2020. To produce that quantity from Jathropa plants, we require nearly 32 million hectare (ha) of land, which is almost the same area as wheat sowed in the country.” He said that though the biofuels policy talks about utilising wastelands, only one-third of the total 60 million ha of wastelands is cultivable and even this land does not give enough yield to make the investment viable.
Obviously Mr. Pillai has been criticizing this policy from a very narrow Jatropha cultivation model that has largely not been as successful as anticipated in India and made assumptions in that regard. However there are a number of first generation energy plantations that are far more efficient than what has been mentioned and leading investors like Vinod Khosla have invested in next generation biofuels and obviously it is in this regard that Mr. Sohail Akhtar seems to be talking about in reference to biofuels.