DECC launches consultation proposals to slash biogas subsidies

The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has delivered another blow to the UK's clean energy industry, after proposing to completely cut Feed-in Tariff (FiT) schemes for large anaerobic digestion (AD) site and "severely" reduce subsidies for small and medium scale plants.

As part of a new DECC consultation launched on Thursday (26 May), FiTs for small and medium sized AD plants – which produce between 250-500kWe – would be cut by 27% by January 2017, while any AD plant listed as 500kWe or above would have FiTs removed completely in that timeframe.

According to the Renewable Energy Association (REA) the proposed tariffs for small and medium scale AD plants would be around 46% and 35% lower than the “minimum viable levels” that the REA recommended during its response to the 2015 review of FiTs.

REA’s head of policy and external affairs James Court said: “This is a huge blow to the rural economy, circular economy, and to the growth of this source of low-carbon energy.

“We see support being given to new gas power plants, as well as to fracking. Biogas is a domestic source of low-carbon energy, is delivering new electricity and heat capacity now, and has strong public support, yet faces drastic cuts.

“There’s an opportunity here with AD to significantly reduce GHG emissions, to repurpose unavoidable food wastes, and to provide dispatchable low-carbon heat and power. Despite this, our ambitions to grow the sector remain frustrated.”

The REA argues that the new recommended tariffs would not prove sufficient to support new projects, which the REA claims would “directly impact” Government capacity targets to deliver renewable heat established in DECC’s five-year plan, while also stunting growth in the transport sector and disrupting the fifth carbon budget.

To combat the dramatic cuts, DECC is suggesting an introduction of a default degression to the tariffs, which would see cuts introduced in each quarter in line with other eligible technologies under FiTs, in addition to the 10% degression that occurs each time a cap is hit.

Responding to the proposals established in the consultation, the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association’s (ADBA) chief executive Charlotte Morton said: “This consultation does nothing to address DECC’s fundamental lack of ambition for AD and community scale renewables. Removing support for new plants above 500kW is completely unjustified and will kill off projects which could otherwise have delivered DECC’s objectives while representing good value for money.

“We will be working with our members to put together a strong response to this consultation, and making the wider case for supporting anaerobic digestion to cut carbon, deliver energy security and recycle critical nutrients.”

What a waste

The consultation arrived on the same day that resource management specialists Veolia argued that more human waste should be utilised to halt an “unprecedented energy gap”; revealing that human sewage could power more than half a million UK homes.

With more advanced technologies now in place, biogas available from sewage could deliver an estimated 1,6976GWh of energy, even though just 66% of human waste is treated by AD plants.

Veolia’s chief operating officer of water John Abraham said: “Investment in new facilities will boost our renewable infrastructure and create jobs while reducing our carbon footprint. We need to stop relying on fossil fuels as human sewage could make a significant contribution to meeting our renewable energy targets, while keeping the lights on and taking pressure from the National Grid.”


Matt Mace

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