Waste not, want not: renewable biomass reduces CO₂ emissions

The burning of fossil fuels—oil, coal, and natural gas—to generate electricity releases carbon dioxide locked in the ground into the atmosphere. These CO₂ emissions contribute to global warming and climate change. Because they took millions of years to form from decaying organic material, fossil fuels can never be replaced. Hence the urgent need for renewable, non-CO₂ emitting sources of energy such as wind and solar. But these energy sources have limitations: the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. That’s where biomass comes in.

Biomass consists largely of forest and agricultural waste: the unused parts of trees and crops leftover from the production of wood, paper, and food. This waste typically ends up in landfills, slowly emitting CO₂ as it decomposes. But when processed into pellets or the like, it can fuel a biomass boiler that produces heat and boils water, or even generate electricity using a biomass cogeneration system. Biomass is not only a plentiful resource, it is also renewable since trees and crops can be replanted. As they grow, plants absorb roughly the same amount of CO₂ as they emit when burned, meaning that biomass can be viewed as a “carbon-neutral” fuel source.

As part of its commitment to helping achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Ajinomoto Group has introduced biomass at ten of its production facilities around the world to reduce CO₂ emissions and fight climate change.

In Ayutthaya, Thailand, for example, the company brought a biomass cogeneration system online in 2016, using locally sourced rice husks as fuel. The system has resulted in a significant reduction in net CO₂ emissions, less electricity purchased from the grid, and stable operations even during power cuts. A similar initiative employing biomass boilers at three factories in São Paulo, Brazil brought net CO₂ emissions down to nearly zero over a one-year period. The boilers supply 80% of the factories’ energy demands at a lower cost than fossil fuels. In Japan, meanwhile, Ajinomoto Group purchases all of its energy from a power company that generates electricity using sugarcane bagasse biomass sourced from sugar factories in Okinawa.

By the year 2030, Ajinomoto Group’s goal is to meet 50% of all its energy needs using renewables, and biomass is an important part of that solution. When it comes to reducing CO₂ emissions and fighting climate change, we cannot afford to let anything go to waste.

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