Those of you who have been able to attend our members meetings will have heard me say that, whilst members may not yet be seeing much evidence of concrete policies to support an increased rate of growth in our industry, there does appear to be quite a lot happening behind the scenes which suggests that we may finally have reason to be a little more optimistic.
As many of you painfully know, the laying of the Renewable Heat Incentive regulations has been holding up at least £200m of investment, which is the main reason I visited No. 10 Downing Street last week. It was a very helpful meeting, so given also the publication today of the government’s long awaited Industrial Strategy, I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on recent developments and highlight key points from today’s government announcement. Further detail will be available at our ADBA National Conference on 7 December, including an update on the progress of these regulations from BEIS.
Most of you will be aware that in October, the government published its long-awaited Clean Growth Strategy, setting out at a high level how it intends to reduce carbon emissions across heat, power, transport, farming, and waste to meet the Fourth and Fifth Carbon Budgets, which set strict limits on greenhouse gas emissions up to 2032. There is currently a big policy gap for meeting these legally binding Carbon Budgets, and AD can play an important role across multiple sectors, which is why we made decarbonisation the main theme of the ADBA National Conference this year. There are also huge opportunities arising from potential sector deals already under discussion in agri-tech and the bioeconomy as part of the government’s Industrial Strategy – we have already contributed detailed submissions to both of these.
In addition to complementing a sustainable agri-tech industry, upcoming changes to the way farmers receive support as a result of the UK leaving the European Union means that in a post-Brexit world, AD offers farmers the opportunity to diversify their income streams and reduce costs through the production of on-site heat and power, green transport fuel to power farm vehicles, and nutrient-rich biofertilisers that can help to restore soils.
Thus farming is another area where huge opportunities are emerging for AD. Recent indications from Environment Secretary Michael Gove that future farming support payments may be linked to environmental management are a welcome development in this regard. We are therefore very excited that, in today’s Industrial Strategy, the government has recognised the importance of the circular economy with the announcement of a new Bioeconomy Strategy that specifically highlights the importance of soil health, biotechnology and sustainable farming as critical to the country’s economy future.
For the government to have confidence to support our industry, however, it is vital that we operate our plants well, minimising risks to those who work around and in them and to the environment. After two and a half years in development, and with huge support from our members, regulators and other stakeholders, I am delighted that we will be launching ADBA’s pioneering AD Certification Scheme at the conference to support AD operators in meeting good operational, health and safety, and environmental standards. This scheme will allow operators to reduce their costs and risk, and our partnership with insurance brokers Jelf means that those certifying under the scheme will benefit from reduced insurance premiums.
In addition to discussing the RHI regulations in my meeting at No 10 last week with Sir John Randall, the Prime Minister’s Environment Adviser, I was pleased to hear from him that the government is debating the issue of food waste at the highest level. Feedstock availability remains a challenge for AD plants; as many as half of households in England still don’t have separate food waste collections, and even where these do exist, food waste recycling rates are low. We will continue to provide information and encouragement to BEIS, No.10 and DCLG about the value of separate food waste collections, and I am encouraged that Professor Sir Ian Boyd, Defra’s Chief Scientific Adviser, is speaking at the conference. He has in the past advised the Defra Minister that there is nothing else that could provide a bigger return on government investment than separate food waste collections.
Finally, recent reforms to the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation may open up more opportunities for biomethane for transport, which the Department for Transport has clearly stated it wants as a low-cost, clean fuel option for buses and HGVs in particular to help decarbonise transport.
We’ll be digesting the impact of the Industrial Strategy further and discussing all these topics with industry representatives, politicians, policymakers, and academics at the ADBA National Conference 2017 in London on 7 December. I do hope you will be able to join us – the UK AD industry has faced a tough time in recent years, but after today’s publication of the Industrial Strategy and with the developments I’ve mentioned above, I am very much hoping that we are turning a corner towards a brighter future for biogas in the UK.
With best wishes,
Charlotte Morton, Chief Executive, ADBA
020 3176 0504 / firstname.lastname@example.org