Why adoption is slow despite promising potential of biogas technology for improving energy security and mitigating climate change in Sri Lanka?

Despite multiple economic, environmental and health benefits of biogas and governmental support to scale up biogas technologies, the rate of biogas adoption has been slow in many developing countries. Although technical barriers in biogas technologies have been mostly addressed, there are persisting gaps in knowledge about the role of administrative (regulatory) and market-based policy instruments in the waste-to-energy value chain for facilitating biogas adoption. Therefore, using the case of Sri Lanka, this study investigates policy instruments along the waste-to-energy value chain that affect biogas technology adoption. Additionally, a consistent analytical framework is developed for simultaneously assessing technical and economic potentials as well as environmental impacts of biogas adoption at large scales. Quantitative assessments are complemented with qualitative assessments including key expert interviews. The findings indicate that biogas energy potential from organic waste recycling is 29–42 PJ which accounts for 16–23% of the household energy demand. Biogas technology adoptions also offset 3.9–4.8 million tons of CO2 equivalent gases (or 8.6− 10.8% of nationwide GHG emissions). Despite considerable technical potential and positive environmental externalities, biogas adoptions in Sri Lanka are mainly occurring through administrative enforcement rather than market-based incentives. The ways and impacts of introducing market-based instruments to increase the investment attractiveness of the biogas technology are discussed.