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Challenges do exist for AD industry but they are surmountable

The Government’s promise to increase energy from waste through anaerobic digestion (AD) is welcome news for the industry. But there are several challenges which need to be overcome to get it up and running successfully, according to the chairman of the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA).

Speaking exclusively to MRW, Lord Redesdale outlined the current challenges facing the AD industry which will need to be addressed to get the Government’s plans off the ground. He said: “Broadly, there are maybe four main challenges which people will face when it comes to AD.”

The first of these is planning which, under the coalition Government, will see a lot of the decision making handed back to local people, allowing them to decide what kind of development and land use they want to see in their area.

Lord Redesdale explained: “Planning is an issue but we are not finding it is as difficult as you might suspect. Once there are a few more of them [AD plants] up and running, it will be easier to get planning permission for even more. It is also about changing people’s mindsets and getting them to realise that an AD plant is not a waste facility but a way to generate fuel.

“If planning is made the decision of each local authority, this may end up being a good thing for AD. If each local authority is given targets it has to meet in terms of renewable energy, then most of them will be reliant on opening AD plants and will want to push them through.”

According to Lord Redesdale, the second major issue relates to permitting, which has to do with what is being taken into the AD plants to be used as feedstock. He explained: “This becomes more of a problem if most of what you are taking in comes from inner city areas.” Feedstock taken in as residual waste from cities is more likely to be contaminated which in turn causes problems when it comes to permitting regulations.

As reported previously in MRW, the financing of AD plants has been beset with problems in recent months, especially in the absence of the grandfathering principle being applied to Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) for AD. This is the third major issue according to Lord Redesdale.

“There is a massive issue with liquidity in the market in general at the moment, although this could be prevented if we remove the risk. The grandfathering issue is set to be sorted out imminently,” he said.

The final issue that needs to be addressed, according to Lord Redesdale, is the use of the gas subsequently produced in an AD facility. He said: “At the moment, it is all going into electricity production but it could start going into the grid. And the other use which could be good for a lot of local authorities is as fuel for their vehicles.”

Lord Redesdale believes that although these challenges exist they are all surmountable. He said it was a very exciting time to be in part of the AD industry as he predicts that this country will see an “explosion” of facilities during the next 10 years.

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