Dominique Girard, the French Ambassador to India, disclosed the 'North-South' cooperation initiative at a seminar on Bio-Energy for a Secure and Sustainable Future: Prospects for an India - France Partnership organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the powerful Mouvement des Enterprises de France (MEDEF) in New Delhi. The proposal was only one of many that were presented at the meeting.
The Indian students can now have their resident visa extended for six months after successful completion of a study in the field, to look for further bioenergy and biotech research opportunities in France. In 2007, the number of scholarships for Indian students will be increased by 50%, as an effort to enhance Indo-French relationships and increased cooperation in the area of bioenergy technology, Mr Girard added.
The seminar was organised under the aegis of Indo-French forum to explore potential areas of technology and R&D collaboration bilaterally. It was attended by high-level representatives from the bioenergy industry, government and academia from both countries. The gathering deliberated on the probable areas for technology and R&D tie-ups.
Research and technology cooperation
The Government of India has announced the establishment of a National Biodiesel mission to have an enterprise driven biodiesel production in the country and to test, develop and demonstrate the viability of the program, says Ms. Sujatha Singh, Joint Secretary of India's Department of External Affairs, adding that the EU also recognises the importance of bioenergy in India. An EU panel is currently being formed to address possible cooperation efforts between the two continents, she said. The panel is headed by External Affairs Ministry of Government of India. The issue of energy security is important in relation to the fast growing Indian economy and sustaining the growth, Ms. Singh added while emphasising that fossil fuel depletion, increasing energy prices and dependence on few nations for the supply of fuel has made it important to develop biofuels for the future. India and France have common interests to develop biofuels and French technology can assist India’s initiative to build up alternate fuel resources and capabilities, added Ms. Singh.
The threat of global warming is a threat to entire humanity and the onus of developing a cure is as much with developing countries as it is with developed nations, said Mr. M Rasgotra, India's former Foreign Secretary and co-chair of the Indo-French Forum. He suggested that technical collaboration with France should increase and drawing on French expertise, methodologies for the implementation of bioenergy projects should be taken up by India:
energy :: sustainability :: bioenergy :: biofuels :: biomass :: education :: biotechnology :: India :: France ::
The prospect for a true and timely Indo-French Forum is visible by the effort put by CII and MEDEF for last two years in the bioenergy and alternative fuel sector, said Mr. Dhruv M Sawhney, Coordinator, Indo-French Forum and Past President of the CII, and chairman and managing director of Triveni Engineering and Industries. The development of bioenergy is important for rural, economical and agricultural growth, while addressing the critical issue of global warming and carbon emissions which is a world-wide concern, he said. Bilateral cooperation between India and France in the area of biotechnology has many potential avenues, said Mr. Sawhney.
Mr. Debashish Majumdar, Managing Director, Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency Limited, stressed that India needs cost effective bioenergy technologies. He said that the country requires technology to develop engines running on 100% producer gas [wood gas, gasified biomass] and effective gas cleaning equipments. The technology to develop circulating fluidized bed boilers, producer gas based micro turbines and efficient fuel handling systems are the requirements to have effective implementation of bioenergy as alternate source, he added.
Elaborating on the Indian need for high-tech resources, Mr. Majumdar mentioned that optimum methods of fuel preparation and storage are required along with alternate applications for the agro-industry such as biomass gas vapour absorption chilling. On the long term prospects, he said that design and development of small to medium– scale fluidized bed biomass gasifiers and Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) technologies should be looked at. France is doing pioneering work in the development of such technologies.
Focusing on the establishment of an Indo-French R&D platform on bioenergy, Mr. Jean-Yves Dupré, Senior advisor on bioenergy at the French Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries mentioned that India is a huge market for French companies and can be a base from which to access the world market. India has accomplished technologies and powerful industrial strategies the production of ethanol, he added. Talking on the profitability of biodiesel, Mr. Dupré mentioned that production of jathropha seeds can be profitable depending on the yields and price and that modular biodiesel plants could be established close to plantations. It is possible to join the interests of farmers' cooperatives on the one hand, and Indian and French investors on the other, he added.
Finally, Mr. Guy De Panafieu, coordinator of the Indo-French Forum and Chairman of MEDEF International said that many of initiatives has already been taken by India and France in the bioenergy sector and that there are many similarities in the challenges faced by both countries concerning the production of biofuels. He also added that more coordination of technical assistance is a step towards establishing further relationships and that both countries will soon find common ground on a diverse range of bioenergy technologies.