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Regulation seen as a block on small-scale AD

There have been calls for less regulation of anaerobic digestion to help the sector develop.

Industry concern about Whitehall rules came at a Westminster Forum zero waste economy seminar as DECC confirmed the government bioenergy strategy will be published in January.

Richard Gueterbock, director of the Clearfleau renewable energy facility firm said the UK AD sector was “over complicated” and “over regulated”.

He said: “We need to get some of the regulatory burden away that is actually pushing the cost of AD up.”

Gueterbock argued that government regulation stood in the way of the development of small-scale community digesters and wanted to see farm-based digesters in villages digesting food waste from residents and business and then supplying energy.

“(But) the regulations prevent food waste being delivered to that farm [as feedstock] even though he will spread the digestive on his land”.

Gueterbock said small-scale AD could create jobs and become a “driver of the government’s localism agenda.” But he asked why small scale AD should be subject to the same regulation as large scale developments.

Angie Bywater, project manager at Methanogen UK and author of a Royal Agricultural Society report on AD [pdf] said current rules were “extensive, inconsistent and based on waste rather than recycling”.

“It also doesn’t take into account what would have happened to these wasted organics if they were not treated by AD; they would be land-filled or spread directly to land untreated.”

Bywater said farmers who spread animal products on their land as fertilizer are prevented by regulations from using the same product as AD feedstock. She quoted a farmer saying “I can feed things to my cows I’m not allowed to feed to my digester.”

Many existing, successful farm-based digesters would not be built today because of current legislation, according to Bywater. She also criticised planning regulation for hindering AD developments.

Charlotte Morton, chief executive of the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association, commented: “Regulation is clearly necessary but the degree, and therefore cost, needs to reflect the risks and be consistent. AD helps to support a strong agricultural sector by reducing agricultural emissions, which today account for over 14% of the UK’s total GHG emissions, improving yields through biofertilisers and providing farmers with their own renewable energy source. This support is vital if the farming community is to address the dual concerns of climate change and food security”.

DECC’s head of land-based renewables at the office for renewable energy deployment, Sarah Rhodes, confirmed at the event that the government’s bioenergy strategy would be published in January. She also said the comprehensive review of small scale electricity feed-in tariffs including AD is due to be published soon.   

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