Brexit day: A new opportunity for Britain's environment

The triggering of Article 50 sparks a time of uncertainty for many, and there will be a large number of us who will be directly affected by the decision to cut ties with the EU. However, I have decided to look on it as a new opportunity; an opportunity to take control of our own targets and to improve the future of sustainability in the UK and our impact on the environment.

We currently receive subsidies from the EU, and the farming industry has been somewhat reliant on these up until now. In preparation for leaving the EU, we need to ensure that we are not reliant on that support, but instead have found our own ways, within the UK, of generating alternative sources of income. 

The UK Government has made a start – the BEIS (Business Energy and Industry Strategy) has launched its renewed Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme, supporting the production of renewable biomethane made from 50% waste. This is a great opportunity for us to assess how we handle our waste in the UK and to explore how it can be used as a resource for generating renewable energy, but there is more that can be done. I would like to see the Government doing more to encourage sensible waste management, and backing schemes such as the RHI to make renewable resources more viable.

I believe that anaerobic digestion (AD) is going to play an important part in the future of both the farming and renewables industries. It has got huge potential to really impact the way we produce food, energy and fuel, and ultimately handle our waste.

The UK AD industry continues to flourish as we learn more and more about how it can be used and the outputs it generates, but the potential benefits of using this process are already being witnessed.

Naturally, farming generates a lot of waste, and it often just gets thrown away. But imagine if we could use that waste to generate energy to power your home or car. Not only that but farmers could use it as an extra source of income.

AD plants can use different types of feedstocks, from farmyard manure, to silage and leftover crops. All of these feedstocks are put into the digesters to create green, renewable biomethane, which has the potential to supply the gas and electricity needs for 30% of UK homes as well as providing a cleaner fuel alternative for transport, reducing carbon emissions by 70%.

Farmers can use the energy generated from AD to power their own buildings or vehicles, savings their own costs on energy bills, or they can get paid to inject it back into the energy grid. At Greener for Life we also have a system in place where the farmer gets paid for their waste silage. As part of the AD process a renewable, natural fertiliser is produced as a bi-product, and we give this back to the farmers free of charge to use on their land.

We have a growing population in the UK heading toward 70 million people, yet we are only 50% self-sufficient. By utilising AD as a renewable energy source, as well as an additional income stream for farmers, we could not only help the UK to reach its waste and emissions targets, but create a sustainable, closed-loop solution for home-grown food and energy production.

Now that the motions are set in place for Brexit to commence, wouldn’t it be great to be able to produce our own food and energy in a way that supports the entire population in a green, sustainable way. I accept it is going to take a long time, but in the long term it could create a whole new greener way of life.

Winston Reed

Topics: Green policy
Tags: anaerobic digestion | beis | Brexit | energy bills | Food & drink | gas | population | renewables | RHI | Subsidies | transport | waste management
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