UK needs to ‘get it skates on’ over AD – experts warn

Posted on 12 July 2012

The UK is still lagging behind other countries on its anaerobic digestion (AD) targets, renewable energy experts told a conference.

Experts said Defra would be unlikely to reach its objective of 1,000 AD plants by 2020 due to a range of factors, including the unwillingness of banks to lend capital and the complexity and cost of the equipment.

Angela Bywater, author of the Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) report of AD plants on UK farms, said the country needed to build 100 plants a year – but only nine were constructed last year. Each plant can take up to five years to build, the UK AD Biogas expo and conference heard.

“We will have to get our skates on if we are to get anywhere near that target,” she said.

“Banks are not willing to lend on the revenue from the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) and Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROC). Environmental permits are also slowing the process. One farmer told me he could feed things to his cow that he couldn’t feed to his digester.

“AD is at the heart of sustainable agriculture but we still have these barriers.”

She added the Government could do more to simplify regulation and called on the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to ‘do more to fulfil its role in climate change’.

Country Lane and Business Association (CLA) deputy president Henry Robinson agreed the UK had to act swiftly to speed up construction, adding Germany had 7,000 working AD plants. The UK has less than 100.

“What we need is the equivalent of Ikea flat pack furniture for AD, but that needs a level of technological development and break through,” he said.

Mr Robinson said the argument for growing AD feed crops on-farm was a ‘no brainer’. He said back up feed stocks were essential in case severe weather meant lorries could not deliver waste.

“Farmers are already taking land out of food production,” he said.

Norfolk farmer Oliver Knowland added sugar beet, sunflowers, rye and wildflower mixes should not be overlooked as feedstock.

Managing director of E and J Solutions said farmers had to weigh up the positives and negatives as AD would not be suitable for all farms.

“AD is not a licence to print money,” he said.

“Your plant needs to make good business sense.”