As one of ADBA's partners for UK AD & Biogas 2015, ENDS Waste&Bioenergy is sharing regular insights from its reporting on the European biogas, biomass and waste to energy sectors.
By Gareth Simkins
A recent event in parliament provided an opportunity to reflect on the progress and future of the UK’s anaerobic digestion industry.
Anaerobic Digestion: Balancing Resource with Energy Policy was hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group and policy forum Carbon Connect on 25 March.
ADBA’s chief executive Charlotte Morton noted that since its launch in 2009, plant numbers outside the water industry have shot up to 219, representing over 600% growth. In all, almost 400 plants are in operation, supplying enough electricity to power “half of central London.”
But not all is rosy. Although 100 plants were commissioned last year only 60 are expected this year, due to FiT digression.
We could be generating about 10% of UK gas demand. That is a significant contribution to the government’s energy targets,
Ms Morton lamented. She added that more biogas deployment could also cut CO2 emissions by over 2% and improve our energy security. Further benefits would be boosting rural jobs, supporting food security through digestate fertilisation and supplying a clean-burning fuel for heavy goods vehicles.
To meet aspirations, the government needs to provide more certain subsidies, more export finance and further investment in R&D, the meeting heard. But raising food wastes from the miserably low level of 10% is probably the greatest priority.
The significant cost this would cause taxpayers could be avoided through reviewing producer responsibility rules for food waste, suggested Consultant Dr David Greenfield. The meeting also raised the increasing prevalence of sink macerators in new-build homes as a risk.
Discussion later turned to the controversial subject of digesting crops.
There is no such thing as food versus fuel,
Ms Morton insisted.
Growing crops for anaerobic digestion is an exceptionally valuable form of bioenergy,
as it can be integrated with rotation schemes and provides an additional outlet for produce, she added.
The speakers looked forward to the prospects of landfill and incineration bans for food waste, support systems recognising AD’s non-energy benefits and the development of biohydrogen production.