The number of anaerobic digestion (AD) plants has risen by a third over the last 12 months, doubling the country’s capacity, Defra has announced.
The department said progress on its AD strategy, published last summer, had been very good but admitted “challenges and barriers” remained.
It said some of the original deadlines in its AD strategy were “overly ambitious” which had led to delays around certain targets.
In an update on the strategy, Anaerobic Digestion Strategy and Action Plan: Annual Report on Progress 2011-12, the department said its ambition remained to “avoid” food waste going to landfill but it remains against a blanket ban.
The report said: “Although in some cases there have been delays - for example where the original deadlines in the action plan proved overly ambitious, or where there have been funding constraints - there has been good progress in the most critical areas.
“In total 21 of the 56 actions are now complete, 28 are in progress, and seven are classified as ongoing actions
Waste minister Lord Taylor, left, added: “We are pleased to publish this report which highlights the significant progress that has been made in the first year since the Anaerobic Digestion Strategy and Action Plan was launched.
“During that the number of AD plants has risen by more than a third and its capacity has doubled.
“Nonetheless, there remain challenges and barriers to be overcome if this growing industry is to achieve its potential in producing renewable energy, treating our organic waste, and creating new sources of renewable bio-fertiliser.”
The report said that as of June 2012 there were 78 AD plants operating in the UK.
Some 48 plants treat waste feedstocks and 29 treat farm feedstocks with one plant injecting biomethane into the gas grid. This compares with a total of 54 plants when the Strategy and Action Plan was prepared.
“There is at least double the installed capacity that there was when the Strategy was prepared,” the report said.
PDM commercial director, Philip Simpson, who sits on the 2020 Visionary Panel, a high-level panel group chaired by Lord Deben looking at dealing with food waste, welcomed the substantial growth in the sector’s capacity but voiced frustrations about ministers’ reluctance for a landfill ban.
“We need to continue to increase the level of feedstock for AD and other food waste recycling options at the same time, and the reality is that a landfill ban is the only way that we’ll be able to strike the supply and demand balance,” he said.
Meanwhile a thinktank CentreForum’s report calculated AD could power 2.5 million homes by 2020 but it would require Government to implements a raft of policy changes, such as a landfill ban on food waste.
The report said highlights over the past year include:
- Launch of the £10m Anaerobic Digestion Loan Fund operated by WRAP, and the offer of the first loan under the Fund
- Strong industry response to WRAP’s ‘Driving Innovation in AD’ programme, resulting in 19 projects being funded to feasibility stage
- A new £9.5m programme from the Department for Transport for low carbon trucks and re-fuelling infrastructure
- Good progress on reducing the costs of injecting biomethane to the grid
- New permitted development rights for on-farm AD, reducing the need for planning permission where the plant meets the specified size and feedstock criteria
- The subsidy for AD under the Feed-in Tariffs scheme was increased for small scale AD plants, and the Renewable Heat Incentive was launched providing another route for financial support of AD projects. The Department of Energy and Climate Change also reviewed the Renewables Obligation and the Feed-in Tariffs scheme during the year.
- Launch of new trials looking at alternative markets for digestate, for example for landscaping and regeneration
The eight major areas of work in the Action Plan are:
- Improving understanding of the AD baseline
- Building UK skills
- Building safe and secure markets for digestate
- Raising awareness of AD – Community AD and localism
- Building markets for biomethane and transport fuels
- AD in the rural community