AD action plan fails to impress

DEFRA has published plans of how the anaerobic digestion industry in England can be expanded over the next few years.

The Anaerobic digestion strategy and action plan outlines the main barriers to development of the sector and how they can be overcome. A large number of its recommendations are aimed at improving the dissemination of information to landowners, farmers, communities, local authorities, planners, AD operators and financiers, with particular emphasis on regulation.

It also calls for more guidance on the cost and benefits of AD to developers and local authorities, evidence on the value of digestates, development of skills and training for AD operators and “best practice” guidance for projects that deliver community benefits.

“We are already making it financially attractive to turn waste into electricity under the Feed-in Tariffs scheme and soon there’ll be similar incentives to generate heat too,” energy and climate change minister Greg Barker said. “The anaerobic digestion strategy and action plan will help us unlock the potential to get more energy from waste to reduce emissions in the fight against climate change.”

But the NFU was concerned by the lack of “real action” and meaningful targets. It said opportunities for rolling out on-farm biogas had been played down, despite the many potential benefits.

“This is far from the call for a huge increase in energy from AD in the coalition government statement last year,” NFU chief renewables and climate change adviser Jonathan Scurlock said. “Many of the specific recommendations put forward by the agricultural working group hosted by Defra have simply been ignored or replaced by vague promises.

“It is good that the government explicitly recognises the ‘on-farm model’ of AD and the additional resources made available – a very modest increase in Feed-in Tariffs, a new £10m loan fund to stimulate project development – are certainly welcome. However, we believe this is unlikely to lead to the large-scale uptake the NFU advocates.”

The Anaerobic Digestion & Biogas Association welcomed the action plan, but also said the government should have been bolder and called for as much organic waste to be treated through AD as possible.

It was also disappointed by the lack of recognition of the importance of source-segregating food waste.