In the UK anaerobic digestion capacity has grown rapidly to the point that the energy supply is large enough to have significance (and could power a million UK homes if that was it's sole use), but unexpectedly steep government subsidy reduction has thrown the future of the industry back into doubt. This was the overwhelming sentiment I was aware of during the combined AD&Biogas and World Biogas Expo 2017 earlier this month, when I visited many of the stands and spoke to many experts in the UK biogas industry.
While researching for this post I was struck by an article published at the start of July by the Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association, which echoed these views so closely, that I have duplicated it in full here. [If anyone at ADBA considers this use to be a copyright infringement, let me know – but the message seems so important that I hope they will support this use of their material.]
AD now powers over a million homes – new report
Originally Posted on 05 Jul, 2017 on ADBA News, by Chris Noyce
A new report shows that anaerobic digestion (AD) plants across the UK now have enough capacity to power over a million homes.
The Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association’s (ADBA’s) July 2017 Market Report is being launched this morning (Wednesday 5th July) at UK AD & Biogas and World Biogas Expo 2017, a global biogas tradeshow taking place 5-6 July at the NEC in Birmingham.
The report shows that AD in the UK now has a capacity of 730 MWe-e, an increase of 18% over this time last year, with total energy generation of 10.7 TWh per year. Operational performance in the industry continues to improve, with load factors rising to 73% in 2016, up from 69% the previous year.
AD is currently reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 1% and employing more than 3,500 people in the UK, but with the right policy support has the potential to reduce emissions by 4% and employ 35,000 people.
Delays in the passing of legislation for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), which is set to restore tariff levels to 5.35 p/kWh, has meant that there are currently at least 13 AD plants on hold. Electricity generation from AD, meanwhile, is receiving next to no government support, with the Feed-In Tariff for >500 kW plants down to just over 2p/kWh.
50-80 new AD plants were commissioned in 2016 but this number is projected to fall to 19-64 in 2017 as a result of policy uncertainty.
Commenting on the report, ADBA Chief Executive Charlotte Morton said:
“The fact that AD can now power over a million homes is a great milestone to achieve.”
“However, while it’s encouraging that the new Government has committed to the Paris Agreement and to meeting the UK’s Carbon Budgets, there is currently a desperate lack of long-term policy support for AD, particularly in heat and transport, areas where AD can make a significant contribution to decarbonisation.”
While there are 437 AD plants in the planning stage, most of these are unlikely to be built without stronger government support for AD. This is a huge wasted opportunity – the Government needs to act now to provide both short- and long-term certainty for the AD industry to enable it to deliver the green energy the Government urgently needs both to meet its legally binding climate change targets and for the UK’s energy security.
Chris Noyce, ADBA PR & Parliamentary Affairs Executive