This is the claim of the trade body representing the industry, which argues its potential is being massively underused in the UK at the moment.

Anaerobic digestion is a mature technology, with thousands of facilities up and running in European countries with a better track record at dealing with waste, but currently there are only 30 or so plants operating in the UK.

The Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA) is arguing that the UK must catch up with its European cousins and that the technology will play an important role in the future of Britain’s gas, electricity and heat supply.

Lord Redesdale, Executive Chairman of ADBA, will claim “Britain will fail to meet its renewable energy targets without rapid building of a nationwide anaerobic digestion infrastructure.”

ADBA predicts farmers, commercial operators and local authorities will build a thousand AD plants in the next five years at a cost of £5 billion, mostly funded by the private sector, with the aim to generate gas worth £1.7 billion per year.

These new plants could meet two thirds of Britain’s renewable energy targets by 2020.

Anaerobic digestion, which is already widely implemented in EU countries such as Germany and in the water industry in the UK, uses micro-organisms to break down agricultural and household waste to produce methane gas, which can then be converted into electricity or heat or injected directly into the gas or electricity grids.

ABDA believes the industry will employ 20,000 – 40,000 people producing up to 20% of Britain’s domestic gas supply.

Lord Redesdale, chairman of ADBA said: “At a time when the cost and security of our gas supply is in jeopardy, when there is so much public support for renewable technologies, and when we do not look like we are going to hit our renewable and recycling targets, it is surprising that anaerobic digestion is not one of our top priorities.

“AD will convert waste into power, with the added benefit that the residue is a fertiliser that can be put back on the land.”

Sam Bond

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