U.K. AD industry doubles in three years

By Anna Simet | February 27, 2015

The U.K. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has released its third and final annual report on the 2011 anaerobic digestion strategy and action plan.

The report highlights progress made by the U.K. government and industry to increase energy from waste and the treatment of unpreventable food waste through anaerobic digestion (AD), and recommends where work should continue for the next few years.

Since 2011, the industry has grown rapidly, more than doubling the number of operating plants from 68 in 2011 to 140 in 2014, and more than 200 additional AD projects have planning permission. By late 2014, in the electricity sector, installed capacity was close to four times that it was when the strategy was published in 2011. In the biomethane for transportation fuel sector, after a £11 million ($17 million) competition for demonstration funding was launched in 2012 for low-carbon trucks and infrastructure, 250 vehicles are now operating, most using gas including some biomethane. Around 20 refueling stations have opened.

The paper discusses the impacts the country’s Feed-in Tariff, Renewables Obligation and Renewable Heat Incentives have had on the AD industry, and includes information on specific feedstocks—purpose grown crops, manure, separated solid food, liquids, mixed food and green waste—metric tons digested, and increases in recent years.

As far as growth goes, WRAP predicts it is likely to continue, as long as confidence in the security of financial incentives for renewable energy, and investor confidence, remains stable. Analysis of current projects in planning stages shows that the sector as a whole has the potential to continue to increase for several years, and estimates maximum potential for a fourfold increase in capacity by 2017, if all planned plants are commissioned and not considering feedstock constraints.

Feedstock supply will remain a key issue, according to the report, as changes in supply and demand for contracts and feedstock sources will deliver changing economic models.