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AD opportunities and challenges set out at ADBA show

Anaerobic digestion (AD) experts have gathered at the Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association (ADBA) conference to outline the future challenges and opportunities the sector faces.

The conference took place between 5th and 6th July at the NEC in Birmingham, UK.

UK-based ADBA announced the launch of its best practice scheme at the show. The new scheme aims improve the environmental, operational and safety performance of the AD industry.

Speaking at the sidelines of the conference to Bioenergy Insight, ADBA chief executive Charlotte Morton said: “We are just at the start of a huge industry and it’s really great news that we are able to launch the best practice scheme today. We can raise the game to match the level of our ambition, in terms of performance.”

At her keynote speech, Morton also outlined some of the industry’s successes. She said that there were 558 operations AD plants in the UK, with a generating capacity of 731MWe. She also said that there were 50 AD plants across the world.

Morton also mentioned the improvements in biogas upgrading capacity and falling technology costs which have led to higher levels of biomethane production around the world, with biomethane-based fuel “being 40% cheaper than diesel”.

RHI

However, Morton also mentioned the challenges the sector faced. She said that the industry still needed legislation on the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) in order to ensure viable financial incentives for biogas operators to build plants.

She also mentioned the challenge of Brexit. She said: “We have no idea what our relationship with Europe will look like. Will we leave the customs union or single market?”

Brexit

Elsewhere at the conference, the issue of Brexit was discussed by a panel of AD experts.

Chair, Chris Huhne, strategic adviser to ADBA, summarised how Brexit would impact the industry.

He made the following points:

  • The economy is muddling along, but living standards are being squeezed and public finances are tight
  • There is a loss of EU support for climate change policy , but ministers are reassured on risks
  • There is a risk of the 27 [EU members ] falling to agree on  UK Brexit deal and risk of lack of a Commons majority for Brexit deal
  • Economics is not a zero-sum game: all can lose
  • With luck, changes will be slow and manageable

New report

A new report released at the show maintained that AD plants across the UK now have enough capacity to power over a million homes.

The report shows that AD in the UK now has a capacity of 730 MWe-e, an increase of 18% over this time last year, with total energy generation of 10.7 TWh per year. Operational performance in the industry continues to improve, with load factors rising to 73% in 2016, up from 69% the previous year.

AD is currently reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 1% and employing more than 3,500 people in the UK, but with the right policy support has the potential to reduce emissions by 4% and employ 35,000 people.

Delays in the passing of legislation for the RHI, which is set to restore tariff levels to 5.35 p/kWh, has meant that there are currently at least 13 AD plants on hold. Electricity generation from AD, meanwhile, is receiving next to no government support, with the Feed-In Tariff for >500 kW plants down to just over 2p/kWh.

50-80 new AD plants were commissioned in 2016 but this number is projected to fall to 19-64 in 2017 as a result of policy uncertainty.

Commenting on the report, Morton said: “The fact that AD can now power over a million homes is a great milestone to achieve.

“However, while it’s encouraging that the new government has committed to the Paris Agreement and to meeting the UK’s Carbon Budgets, there is currently a desperate lack of long-term policy support for AD, particularly in heat and transport, areas where AD can make a significant contribution to decarbonisation.”

This story was written by Liz Gyekye, editor of Bioenergy Insight. 





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