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Sichuan Household Biodigester, China

Improving the quality of rural homes by converting animal waste to clean energy source

Project overview

  • Region: Asia

  • Project type: Household devices, Resource recovery

  • Standards: CDM, Gold Standard

This Gold Standard CDM project distributes small-scale biogas plants to low-income rural households with livestock across the Sichuan Province of China. To support rural development and environmental protection, the biogas plants digest manure and recover the methane by-product through the process of anaerobic digestion. This offers clean and affordable energy to homes and fertiliser for agriculture. In addition to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the project improves indoor air quality and sanitation for rural communities. Carbon finance is used to provide financial support, totalling roughly 40% of the cost of the 395,000 biodigesters already distributed.

Sustainable Development Goals

The project takes urgent action to combat climate change (SDG 13) by delivering approximately 880,000 tonnes of emissions reductions annually through avoiding methane emissions from animal manure storage pits and carbon dioxide emissions from use of coal. In addition, the project delivers many other sustainable development benefits. These include:

  • Affordable and Clean Energy: Free annual maintenance of the biodigesters significantly increases their reliability and safety, and raises user confidence in the technology. With a sustainable and affordable energy source (biogas), households report a cost saving through avoided purchase of coal for cooking needs. The project has a clear revenue sharing plan, distributing revenues from carbon sales to participating households, the local rural energy office that provides biodigester servicing, and to the project developers.
  • Good Health and Wellbeing for People: Biogas produced by the digesters burns cleanly without producing ash or smoke, delivering a significant improvement to the livelihoods of household members who previously used solid fuel like coal for energy needs. Solid fuels like coal cause indoor air pollution which can contribute to increased likelihood of illness, including acute lower respiratory infections such as pneumonia in young children, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer in women (and to a lesser degree in men). Project surveys have found that eye related problems and respiratory illnesses have decreased in frequency with the installation of the biogas plants.

Read More information to find out how the project delivers other sustainable development benefits.

  • Clean Water and Sanitation: Prior to biogas unit installation, animal waste is typically disposed into surrounding water bodies or into drainage systems in the local villages. The proper storage and recycling of animal manure and organic domestic waste in closed digester tanks reduces incidence of disease and water pollution.
  • Decent Work and Economic Growth: Across the entire region, there are over 12,500 staff working on installing biodigesters in rural households as part of the existing government programme. As the project accounts for roughly 60% of all installations in recent years, approximately 7,500 jobs are attributable to the project. The large majority of staff are certified technicians working in service centres or independently, while others work on project monitoring and administration.
  • Gender Equality: By displacing other fuel types, the biogas plants grant women more time for other activities, as they no longer need to collect firewood or travel to purchase coal. Additionally, in the absence of soot and smoke, women can enjoy a cleaner cooking environment.
  • Reduced Inequalities: The project specifically targets low income households, which are selected by the Sichuan Rural Energy Office (SREO) based on a comprehensive list of inclusion criteria (including per capita annual income). In 2014, the per capita income threshold was 3,079 CNY, approximately 450 USD.
  • No Poverty: With a sustainable and affordable energy source (biogas), households report a cost saving through avoided purchase of coal for cooking needs.
  • Zero Hunger: The biogas digesters enable the farmers to generate a superior quality organic fertilizer – using feedstock from crops, livestocks and foraged materials – which increases both crop yields and the quality of agricultural products.
  • Quality Education: Most of the biodigester and cookstove experts were farmers or bricklayers. Through participation in the project, these people have diversified their knowledge and skillset.
  • Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure: By providing a free, renewable and clean energy source, this technology significantly improves the quality of homes for those households participating in the programme. Under normal use, the lifetime of the technology is 20 years, but as the parts are resilient and easily replaced, maximum lifetime could be much longer.
  • Sustainable Cities and Communities: The project improves the housing conditions through better waste management and sanitary conditions for nearly 400,000 rural households. This also contributes to avoiding excessive urbanization.
  • Responsible Consumption and Production: Reducing the use of untreated manure being used as fertiliser and the use of chemical fertilizer contribute to more sustainable consumption and production practices.
  • Life on Land: The project has reduced coal consumption by approximately 950,000 tons. Although the substitution of coal has been a priority, considerable amounts of firewood are also replaced by biogas. Less need to cut trees for firewood means lower deforestation rates and thus preserves biodiversity and valuable carbon sinks in the mountains of Sichuan.
  • Partnerships for the Goals: The project introduces, develops and disseminates proven local biogas technology the participating rural households, all of whom received training on biogas technology use and related sustainable practices of farming and animal husbandry.

As of April 2015, the project had installed over 395,000 biogas plants across the Sichuan Province.

Xie Guo ‘An’s Story

Xie Guo ‘An is a farmer and lives in a traditional house with his wife and grown-up son. Since the installation of the biodigester, the family has been able to cook three meals per day using the biogas generated, and was able to invest some of the money saved on fuels and fertilisers to invest in their agricultural activities.