Nishant Bioenergy won an Ashden Award for Sustainable Energy in 2005.
Nishant Bioenergy, a small business in Chandigarh, has developed the Sanjha Chulha (combined stove) – a large stove for institutional-scale cooking, which uses briquettes made from crop waste as fuel. Each stove can provide meals for up to 650 people, and thirteen stoves are now in use in residential schools in India, with more on order.
India has many schools and other institutions which provide meals for large numbers of people. Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) is widely used for cooking, and is currently subsidised by the Government. However this subsidy is due to be phased out over the next five years and the world price of oil is rising, so the cost of cooking is set to increase.
Crop waste which cannot be used for animal fodder is often burned in the fields, in order to allow a second crop to be planted quickly. India has considerable expertise in compressing this waste into briquettes which can be used as fuel, and there are many commercial briquetting plants in operation. The main market for briquettes is brickmaking: however demand is variable and the price which brickmakers are willing to pay is low because the alternative is cheap coal.
Briquettes are cheaper than LPG for cooking, and the Sanjha Chulha thus solves two problems – it allows schools to use a cheaper, sustainable fuel, and provides the briquetting industry with a more regular and higher-price market. Because schools are unable to afford the initial capital cost, Nishant Bioenergy provides finance which they can repay within 18 to 24 months from their savings in fuel bills.
The Ashden judges were impressed with the commitment and ability of Ramesh Nibhoria, who has built up Nishant Bioenergy from scratch. He has developed a stove which brings multiple benefits, and a financing package which makes it affordable. Cooks like to use it and their institutions save money. Greenhouse gas emissions and local pollution are reduced. The fuel supply chain brings secure income to briquette-makers and the small farmers who supply them with crop waste. There is great potential for replicating this technology throughout India and elsewhere.