Renewable biogas provides clean, affordable energy for rural households in Nepal


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Environmental Specialist Javaid Afzal demonstrates supervision practices of Bank staff as he inspects the internal workings of a biogas plant currently under construction.

Trecking through the remote and rugged mountainous areas of Nepal, it was evident to me that the abundance of natural beauty starkly contrasted with the scarcity of access to affordable and environmentally sustainable energy sources.

In Nepal, Most households still rely on traditional energy sources for cooking and heating, such as firewood or agriculture residue with few having access to electricity.

The high demand for firewood has created a number of environmental problems such as deforestation, soil degradation, and flooding. Firewood also requires considerable time for families to collect and its use results in indoor air pollution which particularly impacts women and children.

A solution has been the introduction of biogas as a way to bring cleaner, safer, and more affordable energy to rural households. It is created when animal and human waste are converted into clean sources of cooking fuel, replacing the need for wood, dried dung, and fossil fuel based sources of energy. Its byproduct can also be used as a natural fertilizer to increase agricultural yield.

A Nepali resident enjoys the many benefits afforded by biogas including faster heating, less indoor pollution, and environmental sustainability.

It also offers a many practical benefits to families and individuals. Indoor air pollution is reduced, money is saved on lighting fuels, time is saved from gathering firewood, sanitation improves as latrines are connected to biogas, and finally, soil fertility increases as bio-slurry is used as a fertilizer.

Nepal’s Biogas Project has assisted in constructing over 200,000 biogas plants with partnerships from NGO’s and private biogas construction companies. I expect this growth to accelerate as 20,000 to 22,000 plants are expected to be completed this year.

Residents are responsible for operating and maintaining their own plants, which are built to last 20 years. They are also able to receive assistance through several microfinance facilities operating in the country, ensuring ownership and sustainability.

The successful promotion of this renewable source of energy is a powerful example of how climate change mitigation projects can deliver significant on-the-ground benefits to people who need them most.


Jeremy Levin

Senior Technical Specialist

Join the Conversation

Cathy Russell
September 21, 2009

Among the partners supporting Nepal’s renewable biogas program are two World Bank-administered programs, the Global Partnership on Output-Based Aid (GPOBA) and the Community Development Carbon Fund (CDCF). GPOBA has provided a US$5 million grant to help scale up the program by subsidizing the installation of up to 37,000 new biogas plants in 48 remote districts. The CDCF is purchasing carbon emissions reductions from previously constructed plants. This program is unique in combining two results-based mechanisms, output-based aid and carbon finance. You can find out more on the GPOBA webpage on this project:

Genevieve Maria Dutta
September 22, 2009

Jeremy: Read the story about your work in Nepal and found it to be really impressive. Its great to know that this program is functional in 48 remote districts and is unique in itself in combining two results-based mechanisisms, output-based aid and carbon finance. Look forward to some more interesting and motivating stories in the future. Genevieve

September 22, 2009

Dear Jeremy,
Thanks a lot for reporting this in your blog. By the way, rural and remote Nepal is facing another problem: Food crisis due to unavailability of labour force. Young people are migrating either to cities where there is better living condition or to Gulf countries for employment. Biogas promotion some what helping to slow the pace of this migration. For Biogas people need cattle and from biogas slurry is produce. The slurry can be used in agriculture field in a better way. Secondly because of relatively better life people are discouraged to leave villages. If young people are available in the villages, fertile land of villages will not be abandoned. Domestic biogas is at least helping to prevent the crisis to some extend.

Isabel Hagbrink
September 23, 2009

To add to Cathy's comments above, the Community Development Carbon Fund (CDCF) is one of ten funds and facilities that the Carbon Finance Unit (ENVCF) of the World Bank administers. These funds provide financing to projects in the developing world that are reducing greenhouse gas emissions by buying the "carbon credits" that are generated by the projects.

The CDCF, a public/private initiative, became operational in March 2003. The first tranche of the CDCF is capitalized at $128.6 million with the participation of nine governments and 16 corporations/organizations. The CDCF supports projects that combine community development attributes with emission reductions to create "development plus carbon" credits, and significantly improve the lives of the poor and their local environment. In the case of the Nepal Biogas project, each biogas plant can reduce 4.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide (or its equivalent, CO2e) annually. The project will generate a total of approximately 6.5 million tCO2e during the crediting period of 10 years. The CDCF will purchase a minimum of 1 million tCO2e, with the potential of additional purchases. Historically, the provision of subsidies was a key element in making these biogas plants accessible to poor households but revenue from the CDCF will reduce the dependency on large government and external donor subsidies, and will help expand the biogas installation to more remote and poorer areas of Nepal.

For more information on all of the Carbon Finance Unit's funds and facilities, please see:

Sharon N
September 29, 2009

Thank you for your inspiring words. I cannot help but be amazed at the impact that microfinance facilities have had, particularly upon countries that are so poverty-sticken. Without the grief of high interest rates, microfinance facilities have enabled individuals from bleak economic situations to invest in long-term solutions for not only their villages, but for their entire countries. Hopefully, as more individuals become more involved in microfinance solutions, Nepal, as well as other countries in similar situations, will continue to become more sustainable. And, as microfinance solutions have become so accessible, the implementation of other sustainable solutions in Nepal will hopefully follow.

Ram Charitra Sah
September 28, 2009

Dear Mr. Jeremy Levin,

Greeting from Nepal

Thank you for bringing the good aspect of the Biogas plant and realted CDM business in Nepal. But it is sad to hiding the negative aspect of it.

Though it gives me pleasure through reading your blog on Renewable biogas provides clean, affordable energy for rural households in Nepal" I am totally disappointed from person like Senior Technical Specialist is not being awareof the negtive aspect of the project.

So far over 1000 different projects worldwide have been registered as CDM project. Most of Nepali feel proud of getting registered Nepalese Biogas Project under CDM which is basically a false solution as such it helps fulfilling the obligation of noth by south. With respect to Biogas Project CDM in Nepal, definitely credit goes to all involved in designing, processing and marketing, but the real credit has to be given to those farmers who have invested their financial and physical efforts towards establishing these biogas units. This has not been recognized anywhere. I hope you may be aware about some farmers have gone under heavy debt due to cofinancing these biogas plant through cooperatives to which you have made glorious pictures. Despite large number of biogas establishment, it is still beyond the accessible to the poor and indigenous people of Nepal who are actually entitled to get the subsidies. Unfortunately subsidies has been enjoyed by the elite one and richer fartmers. Government subsidies policy has failed to benefit this poor section of society.

The negotiation between World Bank and Government of Nepal towards trading of carbon credit earned by Biogas Plant established and earned by farmers have resulted huge amount of foreign currency to come to Nepal. But the sad part of this negotiation is that, neither government, involved I/NGOs nor Multinational Bank you represent have so far seen serious about ensuring returning this carbon credit earning to its real owner, i.e. to farmers who own the plant , who own the credit. So in my perception it is social injustice and economic injustice to the farmers has been promoted throuhg Biogas CDM project in Nepal and by the involved institutions.

Ram Charitra Sah
Environment Scientist and Climate Change Campaigner
Pro Public/Freiends of The Earth Nepal
Tel No. 977-1-4265023
Email: [email protected]

lochan shrestha
October 07, 2009

Genevieve: Put your ethics to the global test. You are really different and unique. Next time you come and see Nepal especially in remote districts. More than 200000 units biogas plant in rural sectors of Nepal will be planted. It is really impressive and unique program that is functional in more than 45 remote districts. Village people need more micro finance program to invest money in biogas plant. Its great to know that more people are interesting and motivating towards result oriented mechanism biogas plant. I watch on Internet biogas plant like UTS and Zorg Biogas plant that really work in Germany and Ukrane. We also follow this type of biogas plant in Nepal. we will get more electricity, bio-diesel, fertilizer and so many things.

lochan shrestha
October 08, 2009

To end poverty in the World. One third of world population is living less than a dollar in a day. In Nepal 39 percent of Nepal's population is living in very poor. Last year I surveyed 1260 households in 12 VDC of Lalitpur remote area, I found 480 households out of them less than one dollar in a day. I have vision and committment to end poverty in Nepal as a whole. First of all, I collect information from primary sources, and then contact to local people of each district particularly women and form group, committee, centre, branch and head office. It takes me one year to register micro credit bank in kathmandu. I will contact to the world bank, ADB, EU, US AID, SDC, GTZ, JICA, DFID, DANIDA, Commercial Bank, Development Bank, Financial Institutions, Micro finance Bank, Cooperatives, Ngos, and Individuals. I hope I will do and commit to end poverty in Nepal upto 2020.

October 07, 2010

Hello Jeremy

South Africa faces similar problems on the outskirts of our cities where there is sufficient land for agricultural purposes, but these lands are fast becoming a living slum area for people in search of a better life. the winters are unforgiving, AIDS and crime are rampant and its getting worse.

I recently set up a NPO to to tackle the problem of eradicating these informal settlements and its a major project, however we are hopeful of acquiring land that will be used to create plantations for renewable energy and agricultural products and these yields will provide a substantial opportunity for work and small business development, it really means that these outer city areas will be developed to be mini self sustainable towns.
But as these opportuinities are materializing the people are still suffering with electricity and heating, most of them have access to water but thats just about it.

I was considering the options of waste usage for gasification to the household and wandered if you have any proposals or soultions, we really need some help and commitment from somewhere.

My website is still under construction so please use my mail address for contact purpose, and God bless you four your comitment to help others.


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December 05, 2012

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February 09, 2013

Good to hear that you have the green ideas in Nepal, in some places despite they are more industrialized country than Nepal, they don't have that idea in remote places like what you have, they maybe the same resources but limited functions to nearby cities and those for use with limited people. In our own country Philippines, sadly that they don't have any of this proposals, the government is doing nothing when it comes to the use of biogas or renewable energy. Resources that are so simple like converting landfill waste to energy, is something that really hard for the government to do.