The Scotch Whisky industry has taken up the production of green energy with such enthusiasm it is clearly causing some unease in Government circles.
The problem is every tonne of draff or pot ale syrup used to produce biogas means one less tonne available as livestock feed.
It is estimated that last year, about 60,000t of what is known as ‘distillery co-product’ was diverted from the feed market to the energy market.
The situation has led Rural Affairs Secretary Fergus Ewing and Energy Minister Paul Whitehouse to consult the bioenergy, agriculture and Scotch Whisky sectors as to how a fairer market for these distillery co-products can be developed.
The timing is not coincidental because the current Renewable Heat Incentive programme is about to be replaced by a new Green Gas Support Scheme. These are UK schemes which Scottish Government is being consulted on.
Distillery co-products are an important source of protein and fibre, but the amount used in Scotland as livestock feed has decreased in recent years as prices have increased.
This price increase has been partly driven by competing demands for feedstock for the bioenergy sector, which uses it to generate low carbon gas.
A key factor will be whether these co-products will continue to be described as ‘waste’ or ‘residue’, as they are now.
Most of the recently constructed biogas plants are only licensed to operate if they use at least 50 per cent ‘waste’ or ‘residue’ feedstock, with the balance made up of energy crops such as rye or sugar beet.