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UK Government proposal 'could’ signal death knell for new AD plants

The UK Government has proposed severe cuts to incentives for new anaerobic digestion (AD) plants from January 2017. The Renewable Energy Association, a UK-based trade body, said this measure is likely to end many new AD projects planned in the UK.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) plans to cut the feed-in tariffs (FiT) for large plants over 500kW by 100% and reduce those for smaller facilities by 27%, compared with current rates.

The proposed rates for small and medium scale plants are 46% and 35% lower, respectively, than the minimum viable levels recommended by the REA in the 2015 tariff review.

‘A huge blow’

“This is a huge blow to the rural economy, circular economy, and to the growth of this source of low-carbon energy,” said REA head of policy James Court.

He added: “Biogas is a domestic source of low-carbon energy, is delivering new electricity and heat capacity now, and has strong public support, yet faces drastic cuts.”

Kiara Zennaro, head of Biogas at the REA, said: “It is disappointing that the government is taking little notice of the concerns raised by industry in the FiT consultation last year.

“In all likelihood, if these proposals are adopted we will see the end for many of the new AD projects planned in the UK. Correspondingly, we will miss a significant opportunity to decarbonise the agricultural and waste sectors whilst supporting the rural and circular economies.”

Charlotte Morton, Chief Executive, Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA), also criticised DECC.

She explained: "This consultation does nothing to address DECC's fundamental lack of ambition for AD and community scale renewables.

"Instead, it proposes restrictions to plant sizes and feedstocks that will make it even harder to deploy viable AD plants using waste, crops or agricultural residues. Removing support for new plants above 500kW is completely unjustified and will kill off projects which could otherwise have delivered DECC's objectives while representing good value for money.

"The government needs baseload electricity to ensure energy security, and technologies that reduce emissions from agriculture and waste to meet our carbon budgets. AD can deliver all of that, at scale, now - but only with the right support.

"We will be working with our members to put together a strong response to this consultation, and making the wider case for supporting anaerobic digestion to cut carbon, deliver energy security and recycle critical nutrients."

This DECC consultation looks at the generation tariffs for anaerobic digestion (AD) and micro-combined heat and power (mCHP) and sustainability criteria and feedstock restrictions for AD, and closes on 7 July.