Bagasse can be a source of environmentally friendly renewable energy. Brazil, the Philippines and Thailand all take full advantage of sugarcane by-products – bagasse – to generate electricity. And so can Vietnam.
According to Pham Quoc Doanh, chair of the Vietnam Sugar & Sugarcane Association, one ton of sugar cane creates 0.3 tons of bagasse from which 100-120 kwh of electricity can be generated.
It is expected that by 2020, Vietnam would produce 20 million tons of sugarcane which would produce enough bagasse to generate 2,400 MW of electricity. By 2030, Vietnam would have 24 million tons of sugarcane, which could generate 2,800 MW.
As such, if Vietnam can take full advantage of the material from bagasse, the sugar industry can produce 10 percent of the total electricity output. Besides, the use of bagasse can help settle environmental problems and improve farmers’ incomes.
There are 41 sugar refineries in Vietnam. Every year, the mills press 15 million tons of sugarcane and get 4.5 million tons of bagasse. If the amount of bagasse can be used effectively, it can generate 1.2-1.4 kwh of electricity.
Generating electricity from bagasse does not cause greenhouse effects thanks to the use of high-technology boilers.
The material exhaust is different from the use of crude oil. Bagasse-fired power is not as risky as nuclear power and it can help ease the pressure on hydropower plants which may lack water in dry season. Meanwhile, it is not that complicated to produce electricity from bagasse.
Pham Hong Duong, chair of TTC Bien Hoa, stressed that when using bagasse for electricity generation, there was no need to block or change river streams.
However, though understanding the big benefits that bagasse-fired power can bring, investors were still hesitating to pour money into the power plants, because the investment rate and profits still cannot bring profits high enough to satisfy them.
According to Duong, bagasse-fired electricity can be sold at VND1,220 per kwh to EVN, much lower than VND2,660 and VND2,996 per kwh in Thailand and the Philippines. The price levels are even lower than electricity prices at which EVN purchase from oil-run power plants.
Meanwhile, nangluongmoi.vn in late 2016 reported that current production costs are VND 1,600-1,800, or 7.3-8.1 US cent per kwh.
If sugar mills produce electricity from bagasse just for their internal use, the production costs would be low. But if they generate electricity for the national grid, the investment rate would be higher.