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European Commission recognises opportunity to cut carbon in food production through AD

The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) has released a detailed report on the carbon footprint of food production, specifically recognising that anaerobic digestion on farms and food production sites can play a significant role in making food supply chains more sustainable. You can read the full report here.

Growing, processing and distributing our food accounts for over a quarter of the EU’s final energy consumption. Around a third of that energy is used in agriculture, and just under a third in industrial processing of food. The report recognises that the vast majority of the energy used in these sectors is generated from fossil fuels – which account for almost 79% of the energy consumed by the food sector compared. Just 7% of the energy used in 2013 came from renewable sources, around half of the share of renewables in Europe’s energy system overall.

The report specifically recognises the carbon cost of embedded energy in artificial fertilisers, and that

Thanks to investments in farm-based renewable technologies like biogas, farmers have the potential to not only become energy self-sufficient, but also to make a major contribution to EU energy production while reducing GHG emissions… Several food processing industries are also exploring the possibility of recovering the energy contained in food residues on site, through biogas production or in dedicated combined heat and power plants.

There are also some useful case studies, and a summary of current European-funded projects, including various which cover anaerobic digestion. The recommendations include increasing the proportion of energy in food production which comes from renewable sources, without offering any specific mechanism to do so. As a JRC document, however, it is likely to be used as a factual basis from which the Commission can develop policy, and it will be useful to help make the case for anaerobic digestion in farming and food production.

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