Scotland set for AD boom

Scotland's anaerobic digestion (AD) industry could double in size within the next two years after new figures revealed that farming biogas in the country grew by more than two thirds last year.

Research released by the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA) this week shows that 11 AD plants were completed last year – a 69% increase on 2013 – bringing the total number of operational plants to 27.

And this positive growth looks set to continue, with ADBA reporting on the implementation of a further 43 plants that are currently awaiting planning permission, which could see the sector grow by 200% in the next two years if approved. 

Charlotte Morton, chief executive of ADBA, said: “Scotland is leading the way in demonstrating how anaerobic digestion extracts value from our waste, while supporting farming resilience, reducing billions in carbon abatement costs, improving food security and production and generating employment and investment opportunities for rural economies.

“Developments in Scotland are now being used to showcase the excellent return on investment that bill payers gain from the continued deployment of AD capacity. With a commitment from government to support the technology to scale – a commitment which currently does not exist – AD can deliver baseload energy that is cheaper than new nuclear by the time Hinkley Point C is built, and that can help decarbonise UK heat, farming and transport.”

Morton’s mention of Hinkley Point C comes after seperate ADBA research found that the UK’s AD industry had surpassed the 500MW capacity milestone – more capacity than the Wylfa nuclear power plant in Wales, which is being decommissioned this year.

Tangible effects

The AD process involves farm slurry, vegetable peelings, paper and other organic material decomposing inside a closed chamber to produce gas, which is then used to generate electricity. The use of AD plants has reduced household food waste by 8% against 2009 baseline figures.

The amount of food thrown away in Scotland each year has fallen by 8% since 2009, while less than half of Scotland’s household waste was sent to landfill in 2014 – the first time that figure has ever dipped below 50% and, according to ADBA, a sign that technology like AD can help reduce demand on landfill space.

Commenting on these latest figures, Stephanie Clark, policy manager at Scottish Renewables, said: “These new ADBA figures show that AD is being taken extremely seriously by Scottish businesses. Increasingly, waste has value. The AD process recognises that, and turns things we don’t want, like food waste and farmyard slurry, into something we desperately need – clean, affordable electricity.”

ADBA also found that growth in the sector has seen electricity generation from bioenergy surge by 40% from 2013-14 across the UK. However, this growth is at risk of stalling in the wake of significant subsidy cuts.

Matt Mace

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