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Defra progress report for anaerobic digestion action plan

The number of operational anaerobic digestion (AD) plants in the UK has doubled in two years since Defra launched its Anaerobic Digestion Strategy and Action Plan, according to an annual progress report.

There are now 110 plants in the UK, up from 54 when the original action plan was published in June 2011. Defra now expects to complete the aims of the action plan before the end of 2013.

The report highlighted other key areas of progress from the last year:

  • More than 200 AD projects currently have received planning permission
  • Two operational AD plants in England designed to inject into the gas grid
  • Food waste portal helping developers to identify potential feedstocks
  • National occupational standards for anaerobic digestion
  • WRAP launched second phase of the ‘Driving Innovation in AD’ programme
  • Finalisation of a quality protocol on biomethane
  • DECC consulted on extending the Renewable Heat Incentive for heat from biogas plants
  • Rural Communities Energy Fund
  • Green Investment Bank (GIB) support for AD
  • ADBA’s ‘Practical Guide to AD’

However, there were challenges faced during the implementation of the action plan, according to the report.

For example, the joint WRAP/Defra programme of field trials to demonstrate the benefits of using digestate in agriculture was affected by poor weather in 2012.

The aim to raise awareness of AD was to be completed by developing a toolkit for AD, but this was not done because of the failure of an EU funding bid.

There have also been a number of pollution incidents involving AD plants, according to the report.

Regarding finance, the report said: “Banks continued to struggle to finance AD projects with the majority of new installations built on equity. Debt is traditionally secured on past performance with equity investments based on the promise of future performance so the structure of most deals reflects the current status of the market.”

Defra also considers a GIB market report on AD in June which found that while the sector was growing, it remained highly fragmented and immature with most facilities in the UK having been in operation for less than three years.

MRW reported that the Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP) set up a £10m loan fund to help stimulate investment in additional anaerobic digestion (AD) infrastructure in the UK at the start of the AD action plan in 2011.

  • WRAP have published a report on digestate distribution models for organics recyclers. It examined different organic material supply and distribution models to enable AD companies to learn from and adopt existing practices.

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