Sheep industry questions UK’s incentives for AD and biomass burners

Policy makers in the UK are being called on to review the impact grants for crop based renewable energies, such as anaerobic digestion and biomass, are having on the countryside.

The National Sheep Association, the association for the UK’s sheep industry, has voiced concerns over the pressure AD and large scale biomass burners exert on forage stocks, suggesting a ‘rethink’ may be needed over Feed in Tariffs and Renewable Obligation Certificates.

 “Forage stocks were completely used up during the harsh winter we experienced, but instead of being able to rebuild stores, the dry weather means sheep farmers are already using winter feeds to sustain flocks due to a shortage of grass,” said NSA chief executive Phil Stocker in a statement.

“The risk of feed and bedding shortages is fast approaching and costs are rocketing, yet potential feed stock, cereals, maize and grass, as well as straw for biomass, is dedicated to energy production. That is why NSA is calling for a rethink around incentives for AD plants and large-scale biomass burners.”

Stocker calls for a review of the support currently afforded crop based renewables following the UK’s proposed withdrawal from the European Union.

“In an age of increasing concern over food supplies and sustainable land management, NSA finds it deeply concerning that crop based energy production should be disproportionately incentivised. It is even worse that dual use of land for solar and grazing should be positively disadvantaged,” he said in the NSA statement.

“So many of the problems are caused by scale, either resulting in structures that damage the landscape or a mass change in crop use in particular regions. NSA would like to see this system reviewed following our exit from the EU. If land being cropped for AD plants was still growing crops for livestock feed, there would be far less concern over the increasing risk of winter feed shortages that are now looking certain.”

Responding to the NSA statement, Charlotte Morton, chief executive of the UK’s Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA), has pointed out that purpose grown energy crops are just one of many feedstocks available to AD plants, while also stressing the key role the AD industry can play in reducing carbon emissions across a number of sectors.

“The growing of AD crops as part of an agricultural rotation is a proven farming method that improves soil quality and food production yields and reduces the need for chemical pesticides and herbicides. Growing crops to produce bioenergy also naturally aids pest and weed control by, for example, controlling the growth of blackgrass, which can no longer be adequately controlled by chemical herbicides,” Morton said, in a statement issued in response to the NSA.

“Our analysis suggests that the growing of crops for AD is not having a significant impact on animal feed or human food outputs. It's important to remember that, compared to other land uses, the impact of land used for growing crops for AD is minimal: less than 1% of land in England and even less across other parts of the UK, with much more land used for golf courses.”

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