Saturday, November 26, 2016

UK Food Waste Recycling Action Plan and Sainsbury's

Earlier this year the UK government provided a welcome initiative in the form of the Food Waste Recycling Action Plan, for the promotion of food waste anaerobic digestion in the UK.

There are reported to be over 100 AD plants in the pipeline for instruction in the UK currently, but unfortunately, most of those will be plants which will use mostly maize and other crops to provide their feedstock.

To encourage food waste digestion development makes a lot of sense.

A far more environmentally sustainable use of AD technology is the production of biogas from food waste, especially since that waste would otherwise usually be sent to landfills.

Food waste is also the best of all the wastes to digest anaerobically is because it would be highly damaging to the environment if food waste, ever escaped from a landfill into the underlying groundwater.

Also, food waste produces more biogas per unit weight than any other waste type.
The food waste action plan was reported by ADBA in July 2016, as follows:

Food Waste Recycling Action Plan shows welcome government commitment ADBA

Responding to the launch of the Food Waste Recycling Action Plan at UK AD & Biogas 2016, Charlotte Morton, Chief Executive of the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA), said:

“The Food Waste Recycling Action Plan has been a positive, collaborative process between government, WRAP, trade associations, AD operators and local authorities. It sets out a series of practical actions which will help increase the capture and recycling of food waste which cannot be eaten.

“The AD industry is delighted that Defra Minister Rory Steward has engaged in the plan, and welcomes his wider recognition that food waste policy is important for the UK’s economy and carbon budgets.

“ADBA is pleased to have been part of the steering group which has produced the FWRAP, and looks forward to continuing to work with partners to deliver the actions it has set out.”

The Food Waste Recycling Action Plan is available via the WRAP website,

Defra Minister Rory Stewart MP welcomed the Action Plan, saying:
The growth of the food waste recycling in the UK is a real success story, but more can be done.  I welcome the Action Plan, showing how by working together, industry, government, businesses and local authorities can drive up the amount of unavoidable, inedible food waste that is recycled, helping our environment and boosting our economy.

The Food Waste Recycling Action Plan has been welcomed by many businesses which produce food waste, but have been unable so far to dispose of their food waste to suitable AD plants. The problem has been for them to find sufficient local biogas plants to send their food waste to.

UK supermarket chain Sainsbury's has been experiencing that problem, but as food waste digesters have been opening across the UK, its ability to use them is now proving more successful as described below:

J Sainsbury plc / Sainsbury's becomes largest retail user of anaerobic digestion

Supermarket signs three year deal with Biffa.

Sainsbury's has become the UK's largest anaerobic digestion (AD) retailer after signing a ground breaking deal with Biffa. The three year deal means all food waste from Sainsbury's will be sent to AD plants around the country.

The deal will see food waste collected from Sainsbury's distribution centres across the UK, then processed to produce renewable energy to power homes and businesses. None of the food waste from Sainsbury's supermarkets is sent to landfill, but some of it goes to other waste from energy processes. This new deal will ensure all of it is sent for AD.

Neil Sachdev, Sainsbury's property director, said: "Anaerobic digestion is the most efficient way to create energy from waste, so this new contract means our food waste is being put to the best possible use.

"It has taken quite some time for us to get into a position where we are able to send all of our food waste to AD due to a lack of facilities in the UK. However, I am pleased to see that the waste industry is catching up with demand for this green technology.

"This new contract builds on our existing leadership position on AD, making us the largest retail user of AD in the country."

Food waste produces plenty of power when digested. The following article confirms just how useful, that power in the form of electricity can be:

Local Food Waste Anaerobic Digestion Plant Produces Enough to Provide 80% of the Energy to the Nearby Town

When Resourceful Earth Limited announced it would be building a facility to convert 35,000 tons of the local food waste to power each year—enough to provide 80 percent of the energy to the nearby town of Keynsham, U.K—the company became the latest to employ anaerobic digestion to reduce waste, generate energy and cut down on carbon emissions. It’s localism taken to its conclusion, not just what a community buys, but what it gets rid of, too.

“That’s our ideal plan, to make … a system where we’re actually a closed loop,” 

says Jo Downes, brand manager for Resourceful Earth.

“It’s all self contained. Food waste is produced by a community, it’s converted to electricity, and it goes back to that community again. It’s self-sustaining.”

Anaerobic digestion, as a way of converting biomass to energy, has been practiced for hundreds of years, but the effort in Keynsham is one indicator of the technology’s maturation.

As focus around the world has turned to renewable energy, anaerobic digestion has started to become an economically viable energy source that capitalizes on humans at our most wasteful—and most creative. Local municipalities, including wastewater facilities, as well as private companies and even the Department of Energy are fine-tuning the tech to make it more efficient and practical.

“Anaerobic digestion is fascinating because it’s a relatively easy, natural way of turning a broad variety of complex waste into a simple fuel gas,” 

says David Babson, a technology manager at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office.

“Closing waste loops and recovering energy from waste presents a profound opportunity to simultaneously improve waste management and address climate change.”

The technology itself is rather simple. Enclose a mixture of moist, organic material like kitchen waste, or waste from humans or farms or food processing facilities, in an oxygen-free container with naturally occurring anaerobic bacteria.

The waste breaks down through four different consecutive processes, ultimately releasing carbon dioxide, water, methane, and a dark slurry of organic material and nutrients called digestate.

The methane is siphoned off, and refined for use as a fuel, or burned to power turbines. via Why Anaerobic Digestion Is Becoming the Next Big Renewable Energy Source

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Life After the UK FiT Scheme Ends: Selling Biomethane to European Corporates

Many UK anaerobic digestion plant owners must be concerned that the profitability of their biogas plants is destined to fall as the UK FiT scheme ends, and the premium income from electricity fed into the UK national grid disappears. In addition, many potential newcomers hoping to invest in AD Plants in the UK will be seeking alternative ways to market the energy from AD plants.

That is why we were so impressed by the following article that we decided to republish a large part of it here for our readers.

The Move to Biomethane

Adding a final stage of purification, to achieve the high purity necessary to inject the gas into the gas grid, is an additional cost, but can be an alternative to the investment in electricity generator units (gas engines) for new plants.

is this the way ahead for the UK's farm biogas plants and for other waste source fed, AD plants? We welcome comments from you, our readers.

Farmers with anaerobic digestion urged to tap into growing demand for green energy in Europe

Farmers and rural businesses with an anaerobic digestion plant could secure a 10-20% premium on the gas they produce by tapping into growing demand for green energy across Europe.

Currently, most AD plants burn the gas they produce to generate electricity and heat.
But there is an emerging market for bio-methane, which can be injected directly into the gas main, says Richard Palmer, Energy Consultant at Butler Sherborn Energy.

"Although consumers in the UK are reluctant to pay a premium for this green energy, corporate energy customers across Europe are increasingly keen to demonstrate their energy credentials," he says.

"We have secured an agreement with a major energy company, which can pipe green gas through the interconnected gas mains to European customers, so can now offer British producers a share of this premium market."

The development comes at a critical time for the British renewable energy industry, which is looking increasingly unstable as a result of Government spending reviews and Brexit.

"Historically, biogas has been used primarily to generate electricity, supported by the Renewables Obligation and Feed-in Tariffs (FiT)," says Mr Palmer.

"However, in 2011 the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) helped to kick-start the market for bio-methane injection in to the mains gas grid.

"So far this has yielded two income streams: the RHI and the wholesale gas price. Now there is a third source of revenue, offering a 10-20% premium over current wholesale gas returns."

Tariff reductions

Lucy Hopwood, Director at bio-economy consultant NNFCC, says that gaining added value for green gas is very timely in light of recent tariff reductions.

"It’s no longer possible to add additional capacity under the FiT scheme and the same is soon likely to be true of the RHI.

"So for many plants expansion isn’t an option – they must make better use of what they have," she explains.

"Developers are also starting to look at how they can increase productivity, without the expense of capital outlay."

Existing plants can be converted to purify the gas by removing carbon dioxide and trace gases, after which the bio-methane is injected into the gas main and sold as renewable fuel, tracked via international trading schemes.

"Until now, Green Gas Certificates have represented little added value to the producer, as British consumers are reluctant to pay more for renewable fuel.

"Developers are also starting to look at how they can increase productivity, without the expense of capital outlay"

Tapping into European market

"Only now that we can tap into the European market can the opportunity be realised in the short-term," says Mr Palmer.

"That said, this is still an immature market in the UK and it may be that in the longer term British companies will be put under pressure to cut their carbon output, leading to premiums being available here."

Gas producers will have to register and meet the sustainability criteria of the International Sustainability & Carbon Certification body.

"Most farmers’ AD feedstock will meet these criteria and the costs of any audit required will be covered by the energy company," says Mr Palmer.

"The gas premium will depend on the carbon level of the feedstock, and as power purchase agreements can be made in advance it does not matter if the renewal on any existing gas contract, or commissioning of a new bio-methane plant, is over 12 months from now."

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Electricity Demand Response - The UK's Best Hope for Keeping the Lights On as Government Fails to Replace Power Station Closures

Does the term "electricity demand response" mean anything to you? Ever wondered how it is that every year the UK closes coal and old nuclear power stations, and yet so far, even in the coldest winter weather the power has stayed on?

Increasingly, the reason is going to be the use of a technology known as electricity demand response. The concept is simple. Why maintain old, dirty and inefficient  power stations at the end of their useful lives, just to power them up for a few days annually during the coldest weather, if it can be avoided, If you can get power users to stop consuming their power for short periods, and pay them for the inconvenience wouldn't that be a better solution?

Here is what the Consortium for Energy Innovation in the US, have to say about this:
"To avoid unnecessary investments in transmission and generation resources, a good solution is to apply Demand Response programs to reduce the demand for electricity at peak hours, when generating electricity is more costly. Customers do not see how the electricity prices change on the real-time market, since most of them pay a flat rate based on the average price of electricity, therefore Demand Response programs can offer incentives to consumers to reduce their usage at peak hours, through rebates or as a response to higher electricity prices. For the residential customers, these programs yield positive results because users reduce their load at peak hours and, in some cases, they shift their usage to lower price periods. For industrial customers, the Demand Response programs there have not been as numerous experiments as for the residential sector, but they still yield a positive usage reduction." via implications-of-electricity-demand-response-experiment-structures-for-commercial-customers

Of course, a simple idea like this will require some truly revolutionary technology to make it work. Work will be needed both in physically modifying power grids on the ground, to accommodate the far more widely fluctuating demands for electrical power to flow around the power grid system and in cyberspace to instantaneously predict and control consumer power loads.

A whole new area of research and development has emerged, and the paragraph below provides a flavour for the topic:
"Electricity demand response is considered a promising tool to balance the electricity demand and supply during peak periods. It can effectively reduce the cost of building and operating those peaking power generators that are only run a few hundred hours per year to satisfy the peak demand. The research on the electricity demand response implementation for residential and commercial building sectors has been very mature. Recently, it has also been extended to the manufacturing sector. In this paper, a simulation-based optimization method is developed to identify the optimal demand response decisions for the typical manufacturing systems with multiple machines and buffers. Different objectives, i.e. minimizing the power consumption under the constraint of system throughput, and maximize the overall earnings considering the trade-off between power demand reduction and potential production loss, are considered. Different energy control decisions are analyzed and compared regarding the potential influence on the throughput of manufacturing system due to the different control actions adopted by throughput bottleneck machine". via Elsevier-simulation-based-optimization-of-electricity-demand-response

At one level this could be seen as an easy way out for politicians unable to reconcile the need for new (low carbon emissions) power stations which they don't want the nation to invest in, and which become beset with inevitable the public objections to all new power station projects.

Of course, as the proportion of highly changeable renewable energy sources into any power grid system rises, the distribution systems these feed into will in any event have to be adapted to much more rapidly bring in additional power sources. It will also rapidly disconnect them again after peak-demand periods, in response to changes in demand due to weather and temperatures.

There are good reasons for adopting new electricity demand response technology as the idea has great synergies with efforts to carbonise energy consumption.

It may even help indirectly to reduce the cost of water supply, and sewage treatment. That is because the water industry can fairly easily adopt systems which shed their loadings for short periods, and yet still provide their water services. Reservoirs and service tanks can be refilled after peak electricity demand periods cease, and if necessary equipment can be adjusted to work a percentage point or two harder when it is working, without noticeable effects on performance. Up to a point, the water industry is keen to co-operate because the costs of doing this, will be likely to be significantly less than the incentive payments made by the electricity supply companies.

Electricity Demand Response and the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Industry

Disadvantages of Electricity Demand Response Implementation

For the anaerobic digestion and biogas industry, the downside is that implementation of demand response technology reduces the absolute necessity for constant 24/7 electrical power production which AD Plants, are ideally placed to supply.

That means that the otherwise dire consequences to the national economy of power station closures, can possibly be avoided while still decimating previous renewable energy incentives. In particular we refer to the recent UK reductions in AD plant construction grants, tax relief, and energy production grants in various forms

With total UK AD Plant capacity now predicted to rise to in the region of 10% of total total electricity supply over the next 2 years or so, the contribution the AD industry could add further to this is of real consequence,

Advantages of Electricity Demand Response Implementation

On the plus side, there is an opportunity for existing AD Plant operators to bid for demand response contracts. AD Plant operators can undertake to supply enhanced output during peak periods by running at full output, and /or shedding their own loads (including on-farm).

Any site owner, including AD Plant owners with additional capacity to feed electrical power into the grid can elect to install additional diesel generation capacity purely to run them up to supply power during peak demand periods.

Finally, AD plant operators may find it increasingly advantageous to add battery energy storage to their AD facilities, and to inject stored battery power into the grid exactly as needed by the power companies.