Government fails to support anaerobic digestion


Although the Committee on Climate Change has confirmed that the government’s Climate Change targets will not be met without anaerobic digestion, DECC’s announcement yesterday of its response to the consultation on the upcoming Feed in Tariff (FIT) has had the effect of significantly reducing the level of support for the sector.

The Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA) expressed bewilderment at DECC’s decision to reduce the level of support for anaerobic digestion from the figure of 11p/kwh published in the summer 2009 consultation document to 9p/kwh (for plants above 500kW), which is less than the current trading value for anaerobic digestion (AD) under the Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC) scheme. Despite extensive consultation with ADBA and other industry organisations, the FIT level for small scale AD plants (less than 500kW) remains unchanged at 11.5p/kWh. At this level of support there is no incentive for AD operators to move from the current ROC scheme to the new FIT, which was supposed to support smaller scale plants (less than 5MW) looking for a simpler alternative to ROCs.

NFU chief renewable energy adviser Dr Jonathan Scurlock said:

The proposed tariffs for anaerobic digestion (AD) have been dismissed as inadequate by many in the biogas sector, which had lobbied for a range of scaled tariffs similar to those on offer for small-to-medium wind power.


Farmers are willing and ready to contribute to the low-carbon energy revolution but are deeply disappointed at this missed opportunity to encourage smaller-scale biogas production on farms.


The multiple environmental benefits of thousands of on-farm AD plants will only be rolled out if smaller farm businesses can afford them. The government seems to have ignored the advice of its own AD Task Group, and now risks upsetting next month’s AD Implementation Plan by discouraging investment from the agricultural sector.

Rob Heap, General Manager,  UTS Biogas Ltd and one of ADBA’s founder members, said today that:

As a result of this decision, it is likely that between 60 and 80% of farm based plants that were being developed in anticipation of a robust feed in tariff will now not be developed.


We have been developing AD projects for many farmers from all over the country to support the smaller and medium sized farms and especially those with livestock enterprises. AD technology at this small scale is environmentally very attractive, but it needs financial support to secure commercial funding for the high level capital investment. We have taken many calls today from farmers who are now placing their project plans for AD in the pending file.

Lord Redesdale, ADBA Chairman, said:

Britain will fail to meet its renewable energy targets without rapid building of a nationwide anaerobic digestion infrastructure. It is remarkable that DECC has not grasped the opportunity to incentivise the AD industry, which can make a significant contribution to reducing the UK’s CO2 emissions now as well as generate a significant proportion of the UK’s energy.

Lord Redesdale added:

DECC has seen that to promote renewables it must increase the subsidy. The Minister, Hilary Benn, has said he supports AD but the Department has failed to support his words with action.

DECC is supporting wind generation, which now attracts over four times the current ROC support, photovoltaics and hydro but not anaerobic digestion.

Dorian Harrison, Technical Director of Monsal and Chair of ADBA’s Policy Working Group, said that:

Whilst anaerobic digestion is a low risk, well proven technology for reducing greenhouse gasses, the industry will need the same support DECC is giving wind, PV and hydro to build the significant infrastructure required within the coming years.

 Oliver Harwood, Chief Surveyor at the CLA and Chairman of Task 37 (UK) said:

The CLA called for and welcomes the Feed In Tariff but the effectiveness of a tariff system is dependent on the rates offered. On anaerobic digestion, government has simply got its figures wrong despite the expert evidence we offered.

Despite the reduced level of support in the final response, ADBA welcomes one aspect of the proposed legislation: the inclusion of index-linking of FIT to the retail price index and the guarantee of support over a project’s life.

Anaerobic digestion, which is already widely implemented in EU countries such as Germany and in the water industry in the UK, uses micro-organisms to break down agricultural and household waste to produce methane gas, which can then be converted into electricity or heat or injected directly into the gas or electricity grids.

Lord Redesdale,ADBA Chairman said:

At a time when the cost and security of our gas supply is in jeopardy, when there is so much public support for renewable technologies, and when we do not look like we are going to hit our renewable and recycling targets, anaerobic digestion needs to be one of our top priorities. This means supporting it at least on a par with other renewables.

ADBA will seek an urgent meeting with DECC in order to understand the reasoning behind this move with the aim of redressing the imbalance in support for anaerobic digestion.

Speeches: HRH, Prince Charles, John Morea, CEO, Scotia Gas Networks, and Hamish Bichen,

chairman of JV Energen

Posted in: ADBA News, ADBA Press Release, Industry News, Members' press release, News for Members, Policy updates, R&D Updates

Tags: CCC, climate change targets, DECC, Dorian Harrison, farming, finance, financial incentives, Johnathan Scurlock, Oliver Harwood, Redesdale, Rob Heap