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Specialist skill sets

The recent finding by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers that up to half of the world’s food is wasted made uncomfortable reading.

Most of this food waste is avoidable, and finding a solution will require significant action from both politicians and industry leaders.

But there will always be a certain level of unavoidable food waste. And rather than being sent straight to landfill, this can be used to generate energy and fertilizer using anaerobic digestion (AD).

The benefits associated with developing an AD plant are multiple. A well planned, managed and executed installation can be an income generator, provide energy security and manage unavoidable organic waste.

In recent years we have seen significant growth in the sector. In the last six months alone, 18 new plants opened in the UK – taking the total up to 96.

CO2Sense CIC is an innovative low-carbon consultancy and investor, and has supported the development of three AD projects in the past two years. In fact, we believe in AD so much we put our money where our mouth is and, through our Evergreen Fund, invested £1.8m in AD projects that will help save over 300,000 tonnes of carbon over the next decade.

As a community interest company, everything we do is for the benefit of the wider-community – both environmentally and financially. Our strength is bridging the funding gap many projects encounter by supplementing traditional forms of finance. While our investments seek commercial rates appropriate to the project risk, we are often prepared to invest early in a project’s development or to be flexible on the investment structure to help get the project off the ground.   

In addition to our investment fund, we also provide independent technical consultancy and delivery support. We have specific technical skills in AD and can undertake feasibility studies, identifying feedstocks, as well as providing advice on how best to utilise by-products such as the heat and digestate for commercial purposes.  

Our consultancy offers benefits from our investment experience, as we can draw on our direct experience of developing AD projects from an initial idea through to a fully operational plant.

AD projects vary greatly in size and scale.

The largest project we have supported is the £9m GWE Biogas plant in Yorkshire, an innovative 2MW installation that is one of the most advanced AD projects in the UK. The plant takes in around 50,000 tonnes of food waste and generates enough clean energy to power 3,200 homes. Our investment of £750,000 ensured that the plant could be completed in one phase. It has been fully operational since 2010.

In December last year, we invested £450,000 in our second farm-based plant. AD can be a great way for farmers and agricultural land owners to diversify their business and generate additional income through the Government’s Feed-in Tariff.

It is also an effective solution for farmers to manage and recycle their waste in a way that is environmentally friendly. The plant will become fully operational in 2013 and will have the capacity to produce around 2 million kWh’s of electricity each year, enough to power 450 homes.

From April 2013, building upon our investment experience over the past five years, CO2Sense will be broadening its investment criteria beyond capital funding.

In particular, we will be combining our consultancy and investment skills to develop early stage projects that are still in the pre-planning stage. We will be also be working with other investors to continue to deliver capital projects as our pipeline already extends beyond our own funding availability.

We will be launching our new investment strategy in the spring, but businesses and developers with a business plan in place for a renewable energy project are welcome to get in touch to register their interest.

Jemma Benson, principal consultant at CO2Sense CIC

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