A joint initiative of SNV and the Biogas Project Division of the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the programme was conceived to tackle two problems faced by Vietnamese farmers: costly and unhealthy cooking practices and untreated animal waste. Converting animal waste to energy via biogas digesters produces clean and affordable energy for cooking. It also reduces the health and environmental problems associated with animal waste and the use of wood fuel for cooking.

“In 2003, when the programme first started, SNV contributed a great deal to setting up the actual activities. Now, 10 years later we are focusing on setting out strategies for future development and introducing innovations like the Voluntary Carbon path that we are on today,” Dagmar Zwebe, SNV’s Renewable Energy Sector Leader for Vietnam said.

The programme aims for both sustainability and scale, enabling a commercially-viable domestic biogas sector through the establishment of biogas enterprises and the commercial distribution of the digesters. Local skills and material are used to build the units, creating long-term employment opportunities in rural areas.

Now a partnership with Nexus-Carbon for Development has enabled the programme to develop and commercialise Gold Standard certified carbon credits.

“Through building the household biogas sector, the programme contributes to both rural development and environmental protection - improving community health and sanitation, strengthening the local economy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Marion Verles, Executive Director at Nexus.

Gold Standard Foundation regional manager for Southeast Asia, Ellen May Zanoria, said the Vietnam Biogas Programme was a great example of how carbon finance could be used to deliver and maximise economic, health, and environmental co-benefits for local communities.

The newly registered programme will now be able to attract interest from carbon credit buyers who want to purchase credits from a project that not only helps the environment but also has a positive impact on local communities. Already, the French region Midi-Pyrénées has committed to purchase carbon credits stemming from the programme in order to compensate for its carbon emissions.

Since its creation in 2003, the Vietnam Biogas Program has supported the construction of over 120,000 biogas digesters. An additional 180,000 units are now to be constructed by 2015, yielding annual emission reductions of up to 589,125 tons CO2eq.

The programme has been widely recognised for its innovative approach and extensive outreach, receiving the Energy Globe Award (2006), the Ashden Award (2010) and, most recently, the World Energy Award (2012).