UK anaerobic digestion industry surpasses 100 plant ‘milestone’

The number of anaerobic digestion (AD) plants in the UK outside of the water industry has nearly doubled since September 2011, exceeding the 100 mark for the first time, according to figures released today.

Gathered by bioeconomy consultants NNFCC and the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), the figures reveal that currently there are 106 AD plants outside of the water industry. Combined they process up to 5.1 million tonnes of food and farm waste every year and have an installed electrical capacity of more than 88MWe. 

NNFCC head of biomass and biogas Lucy Hopwood said: “This is a significant milestone for the anaerobic digestion industry in the UK and highlights the broad range of companies turning to AD for waste management and to generate renewable heat and electricity.

“Recent actions and innovations in technology development, training and process optimisation have led to greater opportunities and a more robust industry. For investors anaerobic digestion is an easy win with good returns, support from a number of Government incentives and low investment risk,” she added.

Almost half of the AD plants currently in operation are ‘community’ digesters, where food waste is collected from multiple sources, such as supermarkets, hospitality providers and households, to be converted into heat, power and fertiliser.

A further 30% use ‘agricultural’ feedstocks, like slurry, manure, crops or residues and the remaining digesters are ‘industrial’ sites treating on-site waste such as brewery effluent and food processing residues.

Commenting on the achievement, a Defra spokesperson said: “AD is a valuable technology that can turn food and farm waste into renewable energy and valuable fertiliser, we welcome the continuing development of the sector from 54 plants when the AD Strategy was published in June 2011 to more than 100 now,”

“Working with stakeholders, we continue to take forward the AD Strategy and Action Plan which is tackling the barriers to further uptake of AD.”

Conor McGlone

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