Thursday, February 08, 2007

India Bio-diesel Update

Monthly update on the bio-diesel scene in India

Mahindra and Mahindra, one of the giants of automobile manufacturing in India, has unveiled 100% bio-diesel versions of its Scorpio and Bolero SUVs for "real world usage trials". They also unveiled a 5% bio-diesel tractor.

Unlike with gasoline/ethanol, there is no concept of flex-fuel cars in the diesel/bio-diesel landscape. So automobiles will move gradually from 100:0 (bio-diesel:diesel) to 98:2 to 95:5 and so on. The Indian Railways currently runs some trains at 95:5, and has big plans for bio-diesel, including involving farmers to grow Jatropha on 40,000 hectares of wasteland.

Idea Cellular wants to use bio-diesel to power it base stations in villages that are outside of the electricity grid. Most likely this will be for villages that that erratic grid supply, rather than no grid supply at all (otherwise there might be no market if people cannot charge their cell phones in the first place.) But this would likely put Idea in a strong position to sell their cellular services in villages that will get electricity as part of the Rajiv Gandhi Gramin Vidyutikaran Yojana of the Rural Electrification Corporation. A lot of these villages will get power from a combination of different sources like biomass gasifiers, bio-gas-based generators and solar panels. Importantly these may remain cut-off from the grid. The very fact that Idea is looking at these customers as a potential market goes to show the confidence it has in the Government programs.