Innovative AD Certification Scheme and political uncertainty dominate ADBA National Conference 2017

The launch of a new AD Certification Scheme, and the continuing uncertainty in UK politics, were the key themes of the Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association (ADBA) National Conference 2017 in central London.


Certification for AD plants

The new voluntary, industry-led scheme is designed to support operators of AD plants in improving their operational, environmental, and health and safety performance, in particular in terms of energy generation and digestate quality. 

ADBA, the trade association for the UK AD sector, developed the scheme in close collaboration with figures from industry including insurance broker Jelf and Aardvark Communication, as well as other trade bodies and stakeholders related to the sector. It has already been trialled at three AD facilities in the UK, including major food waste recycling company Agrivert.

"As the owners and operators of five AD plants recycling over a quarter of a million tonnes of food waste across the UK, we found our involvement in the pilot phase of the AD Certification Scheme to be very useful in providing a check and reassurance that our plants were meeting consistent, high operational standards across the board,” said Agrivert’s Compliance director Susan Relf, in a statement. “The fact that the scheme reflects existing ISO standards also allows straightforward integration with existing standards and schemes.”

Meanwhile, Carl Gurney, Renewable Energy Director at insurance brokers Jelf, described the scheme as having ‘tangible insurance benefits.’ He said, in a statement released by ADBA: “Having a standard to reach truly benefits the wider industry, which will only assist in giving confidence to regulators and investors. This in turn will hopefully lead to a more hands-off approach, continuity in regulator assessments and continued investment which, finally, means sector growth. This is a hugely positive move for the AD sector and I urge those interested to get involved.” 


Adjusting to uncertain times

A host of speeches by key figures in and around the UK’s anaerobic digestion industry made it clear that Brexit, the issue that has dominated UK media in the last two years, is impossible for the biogas sector to ignore.

The keynote speech by Lord Deben, and a subsequent plenary session discussing Post-Brexit on-farm AD, both highlighted the legislative and economic uncertainty that has arisen from the vote on leaving the EU and its aftermath. As ADBA’s Strategic Adviser Chris Huhne summarised: while government is often described as juggling lots of balls at once, the Brexit issue is one massive ball which the whole government is having to carry. 

Policy delays in this environment, combined with broader uncertainties, are issues that the UK’s anaerobic digestion sector will have to adjust to if it’s to continue to thrive, argued Dr. David Kaner, CEO of Advanced Anaerobics, in the plenary session. 


Optimism for AD’s potential

Many speakers highlighted AD’s potential to play a vital role in meeting the country’s climate goals, and the enormous benefits the technology can have both for dealing with waste and bolstering the agriculture sector.

“We’ve had a long period in which AD has not been given the advantages it should have been given […] AD is not just a mechanism for providing energy but also makes an important contribution to the health of our soils,” former Environment Secretary and current Committee on Climate Change Chair Lord Deben said in his keynote speech.

Deben also pointed out that digestate produced from AD can be used to remedy degrading soil quality, something that is a growing concern for DEFRA – the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs. Meanwhile, in her introduction to the event, Charlotte Morton claimed that AD can meet eight out of seventeen UN sustainability goals, 


A need to get the message out

If AD is to reach its potential, it needs to communicate its message to politicians, and the public.

“AD’s story needs to be told much more widely […] AD and bioresources are a very important contributor in the fight to rid ourselves of climate change, improve our soils, and eliminate large amounts of waste”, Deben urged.

The significance of communication is crucial throughout the supply chain. The conference closed with a panel discussion on food waste collection systems. It saw representatives from councils in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland discuss the methods used to encourage communities to sort their recycling into recyclables, food waste and non-recyclables.



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