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Promoting energy conservation in tea processing units in southern India


Cluster Case study


Southern India


UNDP, TIDE and Tea Board


February 2008–January 2012


India is one of the largest tea producers in the world.In 2008, the country produced 980 million kilograms of tea, of which southern India contributed 246 million kilos (24%). Southern India is home to about 350 tea factories, of which 125 fall in the small-scale sector. Tea production is an energy-intensive process, with energy costs constituting approximately 30% of the total cost. Tea factories use both electrical energy and thermal energy to process green tea leaves into the market-ready product. Almost all tea factories in southern India rely heavily on biomass-firewood or biomass briquettes - to meet their thermal energy needs. The capability of these units is mainly influenced by several factors including the quality of fuel and the efficiency of various energy-consuming equipments. Energy audits indicate an energy-saving potential as high as 20% in tea units through adoption of energy conservation measures. However, no major initiative has been undertaken in the past to exploit this potential.


The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is supporting a the project titled ‘Energy conservation in small-scale tea processing units in southern India’ along with Global Environment Facility (GEF). The United Planters Association of South India (UPASI) is a key partner in the project. The project aims to develop replicable strategies to promote energy efficiency and energy conservation measures in tea processing units in southern India. The agencies responsible for implementation of the project are:
  • Tea Board: an institution established under the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India to implement policies related to the tea industry. The Tea Board provides on going guidance and support.
  • Technology Informatics Design Endeavour (TIDE): an NGO coordinating project activities and providing infrastructural requirements, management capacities and technical advice.
The project addresses the information, technology, and financial barriers that prevent the adoption of energy conservation measures in the small scale tea industry of southern India. The target is to establish energy efficiency measures in 30 tea factories during the project period, which would cumulatively save around 55,800 tonnes of CO2 annually. Some of the project activities are:
  • Till May 2010, energy efficiency and conservation measures had been adopted by 56 out of the 60 tea factories in which energy audits were conducted. It is estimated that these measures would result in direct CO2 savings of about 40,000 tonnes during the project period. It may be noted that these expected CO2 savings are based on estimates, and not on actual measurements.
  • A database has been developed to provide the tea industry with information/ data on ongoing energy audits, as well as on suppliers of energy efficient equipment
  • Agricultural residue biomass briquettes with high calorific value have been introduced in two tea factories. This measure has demonstrated a reduction in energy costs by about Rs 2 per kilogram of tea. The use of such briquettes would also reduce the consumption of firewood.
  • The Facility has agreed to set up an integrated energy laboratory and service centre for the benefit of the tea industry. As a first step, the project has assisted UPASI in establishing an energy service facility (UPASI-ESF) at its Krishi Vigyan Kendra premises in Coonoor, Nilgiri district, Tamil Nadu. UPASI-ESF can be used by 'bought leaf' tea factories, as well as estate tea factories in southern India for implementing energy audit recommendations, and for continuous monitoring of energy-conservation measures undertaken by the factories. The facility comprises (1) laboratory for testing fuels, (2) service centre for energy efficiency, and (3) knowledge centre for information sharing.
  • Four separate fuel testing facilities (FTFs) have been set up to support the tea factories in southern India. These include (1) Valparai: BBTC Thaimudi factory, (2) Vandiperiyar: AVT Carady Goody, (3) Munnar: HML Surianalle, and (4) Wayanad: AVT Chulika.
Future activities planned under the project will focus on the following aspects:
  • Thermal energy conservation through equipment retrofits and fuel shifts
  • Promoting renewable energy especially small hydro
  • Fuel security for the sector by promoting energy plantations like high-yielding bamboo
  • Assessment of financing opportunities for high-value equipment, which would help reduce carbon foot print.
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