Each year farmers in Northern India are forced to burn agri stubble in their fields to remove paddy residue, resulting in severe air pollution in the region.
SAEL has developed a business model where crop residues are used as fuel in waste-to-energy projects. SAEL is an emerging renewable company in India with presence across solar and agri waste to energy projects. SAEL is India’s largest agri waste to energy producers. SAEL currently has more than 20 projects both operating and under construction in solar and agri waste to energy space
The new Norwegian Climate Investment Fund, managed by Norfund, announced at an event in New Delhi on 15 January that it is now investing equity in SAEL. The goal is to support the company’s ambition to grow its portfolio to 3GW over the next five years by adding 100MW of new biomass and 400MW of new solar capacity annually in addition to its existing portfolio of 600 MW.
Reducing air pollution and climate emissions while providing income to farmers
Fine particle matter (PM 2.5) levels rise with the yearly burning of crop stubble contributes to some of the world’s worst air quality. High levels of PM 2.5 have been linked to health effects such as asthma and decreased lung function, and the burning of crop stubble also contributes to reduced soil quality, requiring increased use of chemicals which causes other health issues.
“By collecting the crop stubble to be used as fuel in our waste-to-energy plants, we contribute to combat one of our nation’s greatest health issues, while at the same time creating local employment and extra income to farmers and local entrepreneurs. This partnership with Norfund will fast track implementation of these projects, making us one of the leaders in this space”, says Jasbir Awla, Chairman and Managing Director of SAEL Limited.
The investment is estimated to contribute to the avoidance of more than 2.8 million tons of CO2 annually, based on the current Indian energy mix.
“We are thrilled to be able to contribute with the necessary financing for SAEL to reach its ambitions and contribute to reduce climate emissions and local pollution, while contributing to meet India’s energy needs”, says Mark Davis, EVP Renewable Energy in Norfund.
“This investment not only increases the access to clean energy and improves incomes for farmers but can also reduce stubble burning related air pollution. I am happy that Norway can contribute to this through our new climate investment fund,” says Norwegian Ambassador Hans Jacob Frydenlund.
 Delhi’s average PM 2.5 concentration in 2019 was 98.6 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3). For comparison Oslo’s average the same year was around 8 µg/m3, while the WHO Air quality guidelines recommend 5 µg/m3.
 Calculated using the “IFI Default grid factors 2021 v3.1” (Combined Margin for India): https://unfccc.int/climate-action/sectoral-engagement/ifis-harmonization-of-standards-for-ghg-accounting/ifi-twg-list-of-methodologies Cleaner burning of agricultural waste is also likely to contribute to further reductions, but the methodology for such estimations is not confirmed.