The factory stands out amidst the endless greenery of T Narasipura, a quiet temple town in Mysuru district of Karnataka, where Anheuser-Busch (AB InBev), the Belgian-Brazilian company and world’s biggest beer producer, have set up the brewery on a 64 acre plot.
Unlike the 9 other breweries owned by AB InBev in India, the SPR brewery in T Narasipura is one-of-its kind in the country. The one-year-old brewery which had been running on conventional energy, has been transformed entirely into a state-of-the art solar powered unit in 2018, a big achievement in terms of making new inroads into carbon reduction in the country. And it does not end here.
The company, as part of its sustainability initiatives, has promised that every Budweiser in India will be brewed on 100% renewable electricity. And T Narasipura has become the ground zero from which this initiative will spread out.
The brewery is one among 17 units operated (10 owned and 7 on contract basis) by AB InBev in India and the fourth brewery producing Budweiser in the country. Apart from Bud, the beer giant produces several brands including Corona, Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, Leffe, Beck’s Ice. Two years ago, the company also purchased SabMiller, with a 100 million-dollar deal and now produces Fosters, Knockout, Haywards 5000, Haywards 10000 among others.
How T Narasipura’s Brewery turned green
The company entered into a power purchase agreement with Canadian renewable energy firm AMP and promised to buy 3.6 gigawatt hours per year for ten years for the Narasipura brewery. With this agreement, the brewery is set to become AB InBev’s third unit in the world to turn green. While, two others located in the USA function on 100% renewable energy, the Karnataka unit too will turn fully green by 2025. But for now, all the Budweisers in this brewery which produces Knockout and Beck’s Ice as well, will be brewed on 100% renewable energy.
On why Karnataka’s SPR was chosen out of the company’s several other owned units in India, Gagandeep Sethi, Director of Supply and Logistic for AB InBev, India said, “The Narasipura brewery fared the best when we conducted a test study for setting up an off-site solar power field. The test was done in August last year and we decided to turn this unit green as it would produce the best impact where we could maximise the potential,”
However, the decision did come with its own set of challenges.
“We are brewing experts, not experts in green energy. So we decided to rope in AMP. India is a fairly new market so challenges related to procurement, right solutions etc. kept cropping up,” he said.
The brewery is presently functioning on 75% solar power. The solar fields set up by AMP will generate 30 MWAC of power which will be directed to the brewery. And how much carbon emission would it reduce?
“Say the brewery consumes 10-15 kilowatt hours per hectolitre of beer produced, it will consume 1 million kilowatt hours for 750 hectolitres of beer which we produce. Turning this unit green means that we can save 1 million kilowatt hours of electrical energy for the beer we brew. Currently, we function at 80% of this but we will soon make it 100% renewable,” Ganagandeep Sethi added.
The firm also looks to locally produce and source barley for their breweries in India. Tests were conducted in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana for smart barley to be grown in the city.
“We need our beers to taste the same. The barley we use in Budweiser is not locally produced in India. Last year, we grew the seeds in patches as pilot projects to test their growth in the country. The tests turned positive showing that barley used for Bud could be grown locally in India. This is a huge step and we have the heads up to start commercially growing the crop in India. We will provide farmers with the seeds and educate them on how to cultivate this. We will then procure the barley from them for brewing,” said Jan Clisner. VP of Procurements, APAC, in AB InBev.
Turning Malliyuru village green
The brewers have turned the neighbouring village of Malliyuru green by donating to the gram panchayat three e-rickshaws or solar powered autos which can be used to transport villagers to the main road.
“Street lights have also been set up to ensure that women coming back from work at odd hours in the village feel safe and secure. Prior to this, there weren’t many streetlights and village roads were dark. We have used solar energy and set up lights and we will eventually illuminate an entire stretch of the village,” said a spokesperson for AB in Bev.
The firm has also set up several water purification centers and water ATMs in and around Karnataka to improve people’s access to clean water.
“Our efforts with regard to water are two-fold. Outside of the brewery, we have set up water filters and water ATMs for the people. Inside of the brewery, we have the latest recycling technologies and work out ways to reuse the waste water,” Gagandeep added.
However, water remains a major concern that is yet to be addressed. On an average, a brewery uses 10 litres of water for every 1 litre of beer brewed. This includes for cooling and other activities. With Karnataka’s ongoing battle for Cauvery water and Bengaluru’s water crisis, the attempts by breweries who use up a tonne of water for their manufacturing process, to save and reuse water would not help much.