Thursday, December 11, 2008

Important UK Defra Meeting with Anaerobic Digestion Interests Announced

Defra to hold second meeting on AD


The minister for waste, Jane Kennedy, is set to meet with the organics recycling industry next week to discuss the best way forward for anaerobic digestion and look at developing a "vision" and strategy to help implement the technology in the UK.

Anaerobic digestion (AD) operators, trade bodies and Defra are to convene on December 18 to talk about the best way to proceed with implementing AD on a wider scale to treat municipal food waste and also encourage more farmers to use the technology.

Jane Kennedy is expected to meet with key figures in the organics recycling industry next week

Jane Kennedy is expected to meet with key figures in the organics recycling industry next week.

Michael Chesshire, a director of the Shropshire-based GreenfinchBiogen, which runs the UK's largest AD plant built to treat food waste, told that attendees would be discussing a proposed "vision and implementation strategy for AD".

The aim of the strategy is to increase the use of AD to treat municipal household waste and also to encourage smaller scale operations to be set up in the agricultural sector. The "vision" is set to be implemented between now and 2020, he explained.

The December 18 discussion will be the second high-level ministerial meeting to be held on AD this year. The first set of talks was held in July.

A spokesman for the Environmental Services Association (ESA), who attended the first meeting, said that the latest summit was being held to "update" the sector about the Government position on AD and to discuss the technology's role in energy generation.

He explained that the July event had addressed the opportunities and challenges in developing an infrastructure for AD in the UK. He said: "While the future for AD appears to be bright, a number of policy uncertainties are seen to be holding back the early adoption of AD around the country."

Currently organic recyclers are waiting to find out how digestate produced by AD will be classified, which affects how it can be used. The Quality Protocol and publicly available specification (PAS110) for digestate, which could reclassify the digestate from 'waste' to 'product', are yet to be released and are not expected to be ready until the New Year.

The ESA spokesman commented: "The willingness of key partners to accept the practice of returning digestate to agricultural land would be essential to the success of AD as a technology."

Mr Chesshire praised WRAP and Defra for their work on the Protocol and PAS110 standard and said he "appreciated what they are doing".

He said both would help AD to progress and added: "It will be a big boost to the industry and will hopefully bring supermarkets into the market and encourage them to buy products from farmers who are using digestate."

Mr Chesshire said he also hoped to discuss a way of incentivising farmers to begin operating AD facilities to treat farm-waste, such as animal slurry.

"Farmers need to be influenced to use the technology" he said, explaining that farmers did not have to worry about paying Landfill Tax in the same way local authorities do and therefore do not have the same impetus to look at different ways to treat their waste.

Feed-in tariffs

The July meeting also found that there was uncertainty among operators about the nature and effect of the feed-in tariffs proposed within the Climate Change Act.

Feed-in tariffs are contracts which smaller energy producers, like AD facilities, can make with energy providers in place of the more complex Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) system, which is intended for use by larger organisations.

The Government only wants small energy producers (5MW or less), to be eligible to use feed-in tariffs and is in the process of setting an energy production cap system. Mr Chesshire said he expected AD operators who produce between 50KW and 5MW of power to be eligible for the simpler feed-in tariffs.

He welcomed the new contract arrangements and said they would be much simpler to use for smaller producers and would be a "boost to the sector".

Mr Chesshire pointed out that Defra has been very supportive of the AD sector so far and said they had done a lot of good work to help the technology progress. He said: "I hope the December meeting helps to move the industry even further along than it is now."


Currently there are few anaerobic digesters built to treat municipal food waste in the UK, although the technology has been used more widely on a small-scale in agriculture to treat wastes like animal slurry.

However, the Government is keen to increase the amount of municipal food waste digesters in the UK and has repeatedly signalled its support for the technology because of its potential to create energy in a sustainable manner.

Defra outlined its support for the technology in the Waste Strategy for England 2007 and said "it has significant environmental benefits over other options to treat food waste". It also stated that the Government wishes to encourage "more consideration of the use of AD both by local authorities and businesses. It has also awarded "double ROCs" to AD facilities.

See full LetsRecycle article.

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