The UK needs to show leadership on ultra low carbon technologies as President of the 2020 UN Framework Convention for Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP26). Anaerobic digestion (AD) is currently recognised for its role in generating green energy, but it also prevents methane emissions from organic wastes left to break down in landfill. There is currently a huge untapped potential for methane capture, use and conversion with millions of tonnes of organic wastes from farming, food and sewage currently not being treated through AD. In addition, AD treatment of organics recovers nutrients to fertilise depleted soils and improve their ability to sequester carbon.
The Treasury has been tasked with coordinating government efforts to achieve Net Zero emissions by 2050. AD has the potential to cut UK emissions by 5 percent across multiple sectors and therefore needs policy incentives applied across multiple Government departments (namely BEIS, Treasury, DEFRA, and Transport) to operate effectively. Good cross-departmental policy coordination is therefore essential to enable the industry to grow and achieve widespread emission abatement. This is a key ask from ADBA, which also lists the following priorities:
The Government must provide clear financial parameters to Local Authorities (LAs) to implement the mandatory separate food waste collections by 2023 stated in the Resources & Waste Strategy – which features a clear preference for inedible food waste to be recycled through AD. It is vital that LAs are fully supported with set up costs that include funding the development of infrastructure to enable LAs to do so. Government must clarify its financial support as a matter of urgency, especially as around 70 LAs will be signing new waste contracts in the time period leading to the separate food waste collections implementation deadline.
The Budget must commit to an interim pot of funding for biomethane plant deployment similar to the Renewable Heat Incentive, which is due to come to an end in March 2021, while a future funding mechanism is developed (the Feed- In-Tariff has already closed, the lack of a floor price makes the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation an unstable alternative to support biomethane plant deployment, Contracts-for-Difference support the larger AD plants whilst many in the sector are small, and the Smart Export Guarantee does not provide price certainty, or consider the wider, non-energy benefits of AD). It is critical that the Budget commits additional support for AD for 2021 and beyond.
The Government must support AD innovation to make it financially autonomous. Enclosed in ADBA's letter to the Chancellor was the trade association's proposal for a virtual Centre for Anaerobic Biotechnology and Bioresources Research (CABB) to develop new waste management technologies, that would not only boost British exports, but also transform the sector’s performance and eliminate the need for subsidies in the future. CABB's objective is to transform AD into a low-cost, multifunctional biotechnology and a key ingredient in developing integrated processes to deliver future energy and resources provision.
“As a result of enjoying consistent policy and funding support, the wind and solar industries have become extremely cost-effective and are now established as part of the renewable energy mix” said ADBA's Chief Executive Charlotte Morton. “AD should be given the same fair treatment, to put the sector on the ‘glide path’ to no subsidy, as costs come down and innovation drives cost savings across the industry. The UK AD sector has grown by over 350 percent over the last ten years and established itself as a world leader with UK companies exporting biogas-related expertise and equipment. However, the current timeline for the Greening the Gas Grid consultation is unlikely to provide the urgent continuity necessary to stimulate further industry growth. The sector's progress has already effectively stalled due to the lack of policy certainty, and there is a real risk of losing expertise if there is an ongoing gap in policy provision. Meanwhile, with CABB, we could supercharge our industry and put it at the cutting edge of agricultural science. We await the Budget next month with interest and are continuing our discussions with the Treasury and BEIS on our proposals in advance of its publication.”
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