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AD crop operators unite behind bioenergy sustainability best practice guidance

ADBA has today launched a statement at UK AD & Biogas 2015, highlighting how the industry is complying with the new Voluntary Guidelines on Best Practice for Crop Feedstocks in Anaerobic Digestion launched last year.

The guidance, which was developed in conjunction with our members and NFU, CLA, REA and NNFCC, was supported by Defra at ministerial level – and the department takes a keen interest in how the industry is using the document.

After recent industry expansion, around 45,000 hectares will be used for crop feedstocks this year. That is just 0.3% of UK agricultural land, and ADBA’s medium projection for growth 2020 forecasts that will expand to 0.4% in 2020 – less than half the proportion of arable land which was not used at all in 2014.

Announcing the 34 signatories to the voluntary guidance to date in her keynote speech, ADBA’s Chief Executive, Charlotte Morton, said:

Crops are an important feedstock for anaerobic digestion – providing one of the best forms of bioenergy, which the Committee on Climate Change says we will need if we are to meet Climate Change targets. In addition they offer farmers an additional crop for their rotations, reduce input costs and improve sustainability. And we should keep the size of these operations in context: crops for AD use a tiny proportion of the UK’s agricultural land.

With bioenergy sustainability criteria due to be implemented for RHI plants in October, the industry will be subject to stringent requirements to demonstrate carbon savings. Farming for any purpose also needs to consider how to grow crops in a way which benefits the local environment, and feedstocks for AD are no exception.

That’s why we developed the voluntary guidelines on best practice launched last year, and I am pleased to announce today that 34 plants have already signed up to following them. This represents a huge step forward in our industry mission to prove that AD makes a positive environmental impact on farming systems. 

Signing up to the voluntary guidance shows how seriously we as an industry take our environmental responsibilities, and that sustainability is about more than just greenhouse gas savings.

The voluntary guidance demonstrates to government how AD enables farmers to increase productivity while using fewer resources and reducing their environmental impact. Using sustainable crop feedstocks not only provide an alternative revenue stream and on-site energy source for farmers, but can also improve soil quality and structure, reduce artificial pesticide and fertiliser inputs and deal with problems such as blackgrass by:

  • Breaking monocultures;
  • Growing cover crops; and
  • Recycling nutrient-rich digestate to the land.

The government and Committee on Climate Change have indicated the need for around 10 per cent of the UK’s energy requirement to come from bioenergy in order to meet the UK’s 2050 emissions target. Biogas from the AD of crops is an efficient form of bioenergy and, as these guidelines highlight, it can also deliver a vast range of additional benefits to UK farming, the environment and biodiversity.

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