Farming biogas leads 40% increase in sector electricity generation

Growth in the UK anaerobic digestion (AD) sector has seen electricity generation from bioenergy surge by 40% from 2013-14, according to figures from the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA).

However, this growth is at risk of stalling in the wake of subsidy cuts, the ADBA has warned.

The figures come off the back of new energy statistics from DECC, which revealed an increase in AD capacity, outside of water industry biogas generation from sewage, from 164MW to 216MW in 2014 – a 32% rise.

ADBA’s own analysis reveals that the water industry was also generating electricity from sewage biogas more efficiently than ever, boosting generation by 11% while only increasing capacity by 5%.

There are now 147 farm-based AD plants in the UK, and ADBA chief executive Charlotte Morton says the leap in electricity generation shows how far the UK’s AD sector has come in one year.

Morton said: “The overall growth in electrical capacity reflects the significant contribution the AD industry is now delivering towards the UK’s energy needs.”

Hostile policy

Morton said the AD industry was crucial to helping ensure the UK’s wind and solar capacity were able to meet peaks in demand for electricity.

However, Morton warned the AD industry’s growth was now in danger of stalling: “This strong progress is however now at serious risk as a result of recent hostile government policy.”

The Government has cut an estimated £11m from AD industry subsidies by taxing renewable energy under the Climate Change Levy and there is uncertainty over the future of the Renewable Heat Incentive and the Feed-in-Tariff.

“Without support to continue development, the AD industry will be unable to contribute to critical Government targets,” said Morton.

“The industry is focused on improving performance and cutting costs to ensure that it could offer a major contribution to a UK bioeconomy worth potentially £100bn, but to achieve that it will need continued Government support today.”

According to figures announced by the Department of Energy and Climate Change earlier this week, 7% of the UK’s total energy supply (including electricity, heat and fuel for transport) came from renewable sources in 2014. This is an increase from 5.6% in 2013, but still below the level required to meet binding EU targets of 15% by 2020.

The AD sector has come under some criticism from the Soil Association for the use of maize plants, which can damage soil for farming.

Matt Field

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