In the early years of the 21st century, numerous large and medium-sized biogas energy projects sprung up in rural China, especially in areas where extensive new construction required new sources of energy.
Most of the new biogas plants were operated by the inhabitants of the village or farm where they were located. These operators tended to lack technical and operational expertise, which led to inefficiencies and high operating costs, reducing the profitability of the plants. This project aimed to introduce a new market-based operating and service mechanism for large- and medium-sized biogas projects, and to draft a code for their design, so as to make biogas projects financially sustainable in the long term.
The project implementation partner, the Energy and Environmental Development Research Center (EED-RC), carried out a study of the current situation of biogas plant operation in China, and then conducted a comparative study of plant operation in Germany, Sweden and Austria. The EED-RC also organised workshops on the design of biogas projects, which were attended by officials from many relevant government departments, developed training materials and held training sessions for project managers.
The project was a success: not only were the key objectives met, but the main recommendations were adopted by the Beijing Municipal Government and disseminated to other agricultural provinces by the Ministry of Agriculture. The Chinese government adopted a comprehensive regulatory framework and favourable policies in support of the bio-energy industry in general and the biogas sector in particular. The government also followed the recommendations of this project and began facilitating the transition of biogas plant operation and management towards a market-based mechanism. It was predicted that in the first five years after project completion (2010-2015), 50% of large and medium-sized biogas plants, or more than 14,500, would make this transition. The biogas industry has grown significantly as a result of this, and the economics of large and medium-sized biogas plants are improving steadily.