Figures released by the Department for Energy & Climate Change (DECC) indicate a sharp increase in anaerobic digestion (AD) capacity in the UK outside of the water industry.
The DECC’s annual Digest of United Kingdom Energy Statistics (DUKES), released on 25 July, states that AD capacity outside of the water industry increased by 32 per cent between 2013 (from 164 megawatts (MW) to 216MW).
In addition, analysis from the Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association (ADBA) estimates that the increased capacity led to the generation of 40 per cent more electricity in 2014 than 2013, breaking one terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity for the first time.
According to the market report released by ADBA in July, the number of farm-based AD plants in the UK doubled to 147 over the period, leading to the swift increase.
The use of biomethane plants to generate gas for the grid in 2014/15 has also risen sharply, says the ADBA report, but is not yet reflected in the DUKES, though the association expects next year’s figures to highlight growth in biomethane production.
AD making ‘significant contribution’ to UK’s energy needs
Following the release of the DECC figures, ADBA Chief Executive Charlotte Morton said: “The 40 percent leap in electricity generated by anaerobic digestion electrical capacity outside of the water industry in 2014 shows how the UK’s AD market has taken off over the past year.
“While the surge in biomethane this year won’t be apparent until DECC publish their 2015 DUKES report, the overall growth in electrical capacity reflects the significant contribution the AD industry is now delivering towards the UK’s energy needs.
“As intermittent renewables such as wind and solar supply more of our electricity, AD complements their output through the generation of low carbon baseload or dispatchable power, helping to ensure we meet peaks in demand.”
Industry growth at risk without government support
The growth highlighted in the report might be in danger, however, after Chancellor George Osborne announced the removal of the Climate Change Levy (CCL) exemption on renewable electricity sources in his Summer Budget this year, a move that ADBA estimates could be worth £11 million in costs to the AD industry.
There is also uncertainty surrounding the future of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), which encourages householders, communities and businesses to use renewable heat technologies through financial incentives, as there has yet to be any confirmation that it will be extended beyond March 2016.
Other issues highlighted by ADBA include the pre-accreditation in the Feed-in Tariff, a payment made to businesses generating their own electricity without depleting natural resources, and ongoing cuts to incentive levels. All of which, it says, threaten to curb the development of the AD industry.