THE GOVERNMENT should be as prepared to fund the exploitation of biogas as it is to fund windpower, a seminar in Shropshire has been told.

Mick Bates AM, chairman of the Welsh Assembly‘s sustainable energy group, said that it might be necessary to bang together the heads of some politicians and civil servants to make them recognise the potential of producing energy from organic waste.

Anaerobic digestion was played down in every renewable energy policy statement in favour of using biomass, wind and water, he said.

There was also little state financial support for the development of the biogas industry.

Mr Bates backed the launch of a new Biogas Technology Association at the seminar to lobby for the production of energy from non-fossil fuels.

“We need to encourage the public, politicians and planners to see biogas production as cuddly and environmentally friendly as wind turbines,” he claimed.

“The high cost of anaerobic digestion installations is inhibiting development so we have to convince people that providing financial backing is justified.”

Adrian Joynt, manager of Walford and North Shropshire College farm, where the seminar was held, said gas produced by the digester built there in 1994 was used to generate £8000 worth of electricity a year mainly from cow slurry.

The readily available nutrients in the digested material also helped to reduce annual fertiliser bills by £6000.    

Michael Cheshire of Greenfinch Ltd said biogas production was a benign and safe way of managing the disposal of the millions of tons of organic waste produced in the UK.

At a farm level it could make a significant contribution to the reduction of energy and fertiliser bills.

Publicity was given to the use of specifically grown crops to generate heat and electricity, he said.

But little was said about the benefits of exploiting solar energy by digesting herbage crops like ryegrass.

Already it was becoming more difficult to manage wastes from farms, abattoirs, the food and textile industries and sewage systems.

Inevitably EU pollution regulations would become even tougher.

“There is a major legislation driven opportunity to develop biogas technology,” Mr Cheshire claimed.