Proposals by the Environment Agency (EA) to increase its fees could lead to anaerobic digestion (AD) permits doubling in price, the industry has warned.
A consultation on setting higher charges was criticised by the Anaerobic Digestion & Biogas Association (ADBA) as being “extremely steep”.
ADBA said the increased costs could stem the flow of investment into the industry and tha,t in some cases, existing charges will be doubled.
At the launch of the Strategy Review of Charges consultation, the EA said: “The proposed changes will mean that businesses pay for the full services they use rather than the public – a more financially sustainable model that will lead to long-term environmental improvements.”
A range of charges are put forward, including an annual fee of £11,019 for an AD facility that deals with 100 tonnes of feedstock.
The proposed cost of a permit for an on-farm AD facility using farm wastes only, including use of the resultant biogas, is £2,641.
The consultation ended on 26 January and the new charges are to be introduced on 1 April.
ADBA called on the EA to extend the implementation date “as a matter of priority” or phase in the new charges, to allow industry time to prepare.
ADBA chief executive Charlotte Morton said: “While we support the need for a well-resourced, effective regulator, the proposed increases in the Strategic Review of Charges are extremely steep, and their implementation date of April 2018 will be very challenging for AD operators to meet.
“Operators are already under increased financial pressure, and even small cost increases will result in greater strain and could have a detrimental impact.
“Should the proposals lead to reduced enthusiasm in investing in the industry or limit operators’ ability to invest in their operations, this could be detrimental to the environment and to AD’s ability to meet vital policy goals.”