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Context: On the sidelines of the G-20 summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the launch of the Global Biofuels Alliance (GBA).

More on the Global Biofuels Alliance

  • Nineteen countries and twelve international organisations, including both G20 members and non-members, have agreed to join this alliance.
  • India, Brazil, and the US are the alliance’s founding members.
  • GBA aims to serve as a catalytic platform, fostering global collaboration for the advancement and widespread adoption of biofuels.
  • The alliance will also act as a central repository of knowledge and an expert hub.

What are biofuels?

  • The International Energy Agency (IEA) defines biofuels as “liquid fuels derived from biomass and used as an alternative to fossil fuel based liquid transportation fuels such as gasoline, diesel and aviation fuels.”
  • Key drivers: Rising oil prices, greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, and agricultural income diversification are some of the key drivers of the switch to biofuels.
  • Categories of biofuels: Based on the feedstock (raw materials) used to produce biofuels, they are classified into four generations (see image).


  • Stats IQ:
    • Globally, biofuels accounted for 0.2 percent of total primary energy consumption and 0.7 percent of transportation energy consumption in 2019.
    • Presently, first-generation biofuels are the main source of biofuels globally despite 140 billion tonnes of agrowaste or biomass generated from agriculture every year.
    • In India, 12.83% of the total renewable energy generation is contributed by biofuels alone.


Government initiatives to promote biofuels in India

  • National Policy on Biofuels, 2018: It was notified by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas in 2018.
  • 2022 amendment to the National Policy on Biofuels, 2018:
    • Centre advanced the deadline to reach the blending target of 20% bioethanol in petrol, from 2030 to 2025-26.
    • The government will allow more feedstocks for the production of biofuels.
    • The government has allowed the addition of new members to the National Biofuel Coordination Committee (NBCC).


  • Mission Integrated Bio-refineries: The Mission is Co-led by India and the Netherlands and announced during the UNFCCC’s COP26 at Glasgow.
    • Integrated biorefineries employ combinations of feedstock and conversion technologies to create a variety of co-products and biofuels.
  • The 2019 Pradhan Mantri JI-VAN (Jaiv Indhan – Vatavaran Anukool fasal awashesh Nivaran) Yojana: The program’s goals are to foster an environment for the development of business ventures and to advance R&D in the 2G ethanol market.
  • E-100 Project to set up a network for production and distribution of ethanol across the nation.
  • GOBAR (Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources) DHAN scheme, 2018: Launched under Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin), it focuses on managing and turning solid farm waste, like as animal dung, into compost, biogas, and bio-CNG, which helps keep villages clean and boosts the income of rural people.
  • Repurpose Used Cooking Oil (RUCO): RUCO launched by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) aims for an ecosystem that will enable the collection and conversion of used cooking oil to biodiesel.
  • Goods & Service Tax (GST) on ethanol meant for EBP Programme has been reduced from 18% to 5%.

Several Challenges for the Adoption of Biofuels in India

  • Impact on Food and Water Security: The production of first-generation biofuels diverts agricultural resources away from food production, potentially leading to higher food prices.
    • Estimated ethanol demand of 10.16 billion litres by 2025 will require 6 million metric tonne (MT) of sugar and 16.5 million MT of grains per annum by ESY 2025.
    • Additionally, crops like sugarcane are water-intensive, exacerbating water scarcity issues.
  • Feedstock Vulnerability: The agriculture sector, which provides feedstock for biofuel production, is highly vulnerable to climatic and economic events.
  • Price of Raw Materials: The fixed pricing of raw materials like sugarcane and food grains can lead to higher ethanol production costs.
  • Limited Production and Storage Facilities: There is a lack of ethanol facilities in India to meet the growing demand, which is further exacerbated by the limited private investment.
  • Non-Uniform Availability: Ethanol production and availability are not uniform across all states, leading to challenges in transportation and increased costs.
  • Retrofitting Costs: The use of higher ethanol blends (e.g., E20) may require vehicle modifications, increasing the cost of E20-compatible vehicles.

Way Forward

  • Promoting Advanced Generation Biofuels: particularly second-generation and beyond. This approach not only reduces food security concerns but also aligns with sustainability objectives.
  • Infrastructure Enhancement: in ethanol storage, handling, blending, and dispensing facilities to facilitate the widespread adoption of biofuels.
  • Incentives for E20 Vehicles: Tax incentives can be instrumental in offsetting the R&D costs associated with E20-compatible vehicle design.
  • Public-Private Partnerships: to drive innovation and growth in the biofuel sector.

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