(Stop) burning for biogas. Enabling positive sustainability trade-offs with business models for biogas from rice straw

Jamieson, C.; Röder, M.; Thornley, P.

Rice is the main agricultural crop in the Philippines and central to the country’s food security. One main challenge of rice farming is the management of the straw after harvest. With limited uses, the rice straw is currently burned or in some cases incorporated with significant environmental impacts. However, it can be an important feedstock for sustainable bioenergy and support energy access in the Philippines. The research was conducted around a 1000 m3 biogas pilot plant in Laguna province, Philippines. The aim of this research was to develop business models and assess their potential for improving energy access, agricultural practices, and empowering local rice-growing communities. Four business models were developed, reflecting energy supply and demand approaches. This was informed by interviews with stakeholders, including farmers, agricultural entrepreneurs, local authorities, and policymakers in the case study location. A multi-criteria assessment was conducted to evaluate synergies and trade-offs between different aspects of the business models. While all business models provided positive environmental, economic, and in particular social sustainability impacts, the farming community showed the most support for approaches that provide wider livelihood benefits beyond renewable energy access, such as diversification of agricultural activities and income generation. This demonstrated that bioenergy has the potential to create a virtuous circle of benefits for local communities in support of sustainable development. To achieve this, it is essential to take a holistic and multi-level approach to the different sustainability criteria to maximise benefits and mitigate negative impacts of bioenergy systems beyond energy technology.

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