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ADBA proposes additional support for RHI

The consultation period for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), part of the targets that will dramatically slash Britain’s carbon dioxide emissions, has just closed and is due to be introduced in April next year.

The RHI aims to enable the construction of 80TWh (Tera Watt hours) of renewable heat in the UK in the short- to medium-term. Almost 10% of this target is allocated to heat generated from anaerobic digestion (AD).

AD converts organic waste materials into methane, which is then injected into the National Grid or used to produce heat. When used in modern domestic boilers biomethane can deliver significant carbon offset. It was for this reason that the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) proposed that biomethane be included directly within the RHI document. This involved an application for the support of biomethane injected into the grid at a rate of £0.04 (€0.05) per kWh. However the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA) believes that this rate is not enough to produce investment for biomethane technology.

The Chairman of ADBA Lord Redesdale said: ‘If we are to have an anaerobic digestion industry in this country to meet DECC’s targets for renewable energy and reduction of greenhouse gases, it is vital that the RHI is set at a level that will make AD viable and sustainable.’

In order to make biomethane a financially viable option for developers, ADBA believes that it requires a higher level of support than initially proposed by DECC. Biomethane upgrade and injection is a new technology in the UK and currently involves a higher capital and operational cost than CHP which has had decades to standardise technology.

Taking this into consideration, ADBA has proposed two bands of support for biomethane within the RHI: £0.09 per kWh for the first 1MW (thermal) capacity and £0.06 per kWh thereafter.

In addition to these proposed levels of support ADBA believes that an additional level of support is required in order for the UK to overcome the period of inactivity in the market. The response document therefore calls for an additional 25% premium to be included for the first 2TWh of gas upgrade capacity to allow a rapid uptake of technology. This will eventually result in reduced costs.

A petition from ADBA’s farming industry also requires additional support, after arguing that farm digesters could produce a significant quantity of biomethane but a greater level of support is needed due to the requirement to pay for feedstock. ADBA has therefore urged DECC to consider an additional support rate of £0.02 per kWh over and above the base tariff required by other facilities to enable biomethane to be economic on a farm scale.

It is thought that the DECC will complete the final version of the RHI over the coming months in order to meet the April 2011 deadline, while ADBA, the UK’s leading trade body representing the biogas industry, will attempt to work closely with DECC to ensure that the details within the document meet the needs of both the AD industry and also the needs of the UK.