Building support for bioenergy in the new political climate
This year, Clearfleau is building on-site bio-energy plants for dairy, food and distillery businesses and will be doing more of these in 2018, with many new plants being built in Scotland.
Our track record already shows we can offer food and beverage companies the return on investment above 20% they expect, while ensuring their plants make the best use of the energy from biogas so they use less fossil fuels and reduce their carbon footprint. Companies also need to consider how green credentials might offer them a potential competitive advantage. This is something that companies like Unilever and Carlsberg understand well.
These are all compelling reasons for the new Government to do more to support decentralised generation of bio-energy and the circular economy in the run-up to Brexit. The contrast with Scotland is clear, where the importance of the green economy is recognised by all political parties.
Westminster lacks this political consensus. Also, Trump’s views on climate change have found support from some of those who want a hard Brexit. However, one positive sign is the re-appointment of Greg Clark as Secretary of State for Business and Energy, who has already shown he understands the economic benefits our sector offers. Another is Claire Perry’s appointment to BEIS – she has been vocal about the challenges of climate change and is well informed about AD and other renewables.
There should be five priorities for Greg Clark and his colleagues at BEIS:
1) Follow Scotland’s example and start setting targets for decentralised energy generation.
2) Adjust the imbalance between levels of taxpayer support for nuclear power and renewables (switching 5% of funding from nuclear will boost both engineering jobs and innovation).
3) Do more to support British bio-energy technology against competition from EU suppliers, with overt support for promoting the Circular Economy throughout British industry.
4) Provide a stable incentive regime to allow smaller businesses to invest in carbon reduction.
5) Encourage businesses to invest in developing bio-fuels for use in commercial vehicles.
Many policymakers seem unaware of the role the bio-energy sector plays in economic growth, accounting for several thousand engineering jobs. As technology providers, we need a positive policy framework to encourage British companies to invest in non-core activities like bio-energy and carbon reduction.
The food and drink sector is one of the largest energy consumers in the UK, and with prices on the rise again, it needs strategic support – and political enthusiasm - to encourage smaller businesses follow the lead from the multinationals.
In the run up to Brexit, the sector needs to become more competitive in Europe and elsewhere. With global food leaders pushing for more investment in on-site renewables, UK policy should also do more to support businesses that invest in better resource use.Richard Gueterbock