The UK policy environment on AD is changing and it looks hopeful. Charlotte Morton, chief executive of The Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA), explains the direction of things.
AD is increasingly being recognised as an important tool for dealing with waste and tackling climate change. It has the potential to reduce UK greenhouse gas emissions by 5%, but currently it is reducing them by 1%, so there is a lot more potential.
A combination of policies and plans, such as the Clean Growth Strategy, 25 Year Environment Plan, Clean Air Strategy, Climate Change Act, and Theresa May’s announcement to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, will increasingly put pressure on farmers to decarbonise and my feeling is the Government is seeing AD as an essential part of that.
Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party are also supportive of AD.
Chancellor Phillip Hammond announced support for green gas in the Spring Statement and is due to consult on a delivery mechanism later this year.
There is also the new Food Waste Strategy, which will require all local councils to collect household food waste by 2023. This amounts to four million tonnes, a huge resource that we estimate will require 80 new AD plants to process. So far, the Government has stated AD is its preferred option to treat the waste and we have been clear there will need to be financial incentives to build the plants.
Brexit is also a potential opportunity. The Agriculture Bill, which will become policy if/when we leave the EU, sets out plans to pay farmers for public goods and AD might be recognised as a way of delivering emission reductions and soil health.
The farming industry is responding to public and Government pressure to become greener, with the NFU announcing a goal for farming to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. So things are pointing to AD taking a more prominent role.
As for other existing forms of financial support, it is promising that the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and Tariff Guarantee have been extended (see page 11).
Longer term, we have suggested to Government a scheme similar to the RHI, but that would take into account AD’s more specific benefits. There could also be an extension of the Contracts for Difference for smaller projects.
There are currently more than 330 on-farm AD plants providing environmental benefits across the UK, but we estimate there is the potential for this number to increase at least 10-fold.
It is therefore essential for the Government to provide, as part of its proposed reforms to agriculture, clear and meaningful incentives for farmers to introduce AD into its farming operations.
With the rise in public consciousness about climate change and the environment, there is an opportunity to promote the benefits of AD as a way for farming to decarbonise, regenerate soils and deal with food waste (see page 10).
On-farm AD could provide farmers a way to market and differentiate their products.
With this in mind, ADBA is launching a new biogas standard for companies and products using biogas, that will allow consumers to choose products produced with green energy.
Many people do not know about AD, but millions will soon when the Food Waste Strategy kicks in and councils ask people to separate their food waste. As for the food vs. fuel argument, we believe it is a red-herring. We are wasting one-third-to-half of our food, so a lack of food being produced is not an issue in the UK.
When climate change really hits, that might change, but it is an issue of how we use land sustainably, for everything, including food, fuel, clothes, bio-based materials, golf courses and habitation.
More information- Visit adbioresources.org