Representatives from the NFU, REA Biogas, ADBA and the Country Land and Business Association have met with Defra and Decc ministers and officials to call for greater support for small-scale biogas projects.

A 20% cut to Feed-in Tariffs for smaller (sub-500kW) plants from April 2014, inadequate room to grow the supply chain under the tariff degression mechanism and lack of clear policy support threatened to stall the sector unless urgent action was taken, warned NFU chief renewable energy advisor, Jonathan Scurlock.

Speaking to Farmers Weekly ahead of the meeting, Dr Scurlock said there were a number of short-term policy “tweaks” as well as longer-term measures that the government should make to rebuild confidence in small-scale AD. These included:

• The need for a future FiT scheme to specifically support small-scale AD (under 100kW)

• Greater flexibility and grace periods for the commissioning of new plants to avoid developers rushing projects through in order to qualify for a particular level of support

• Modify the RHI “eligible heat” criteria to remove the deduction of “parasitic” heating of the digester for plants under 250kW

• Make better use of the Enhanced Capital Allowances (ECA) scheme by including full AD kit on the list of eligible equipment, to allow farmers investing in AD to write off the capital cost of new plant or machinery against their taxable profits

• More co-operation between Defra and Decc to recognise and incentivise the different ways farm-based AD can deliver wider environmental benefits and meet greenhouse gas targets, such as avoided methane emissions from manures and slurries, more efficient nutrient management, and protection of water resources

“The UK has potential to become a buoyant market for farm-based AD, but this will only happen if the right policy drivers are in place,” said Dr Scurlock.

“At the moment the AD supply chain has a relatively full order book that developers will be rushing to get built, but beyond 2015 it’s looking quite empty.”