German biogas industry adds 150 plants in 2015

By Anna Simet | August 18, 2016

Germany added 23 MW in biogas electricity last year among 150 plants built, most of which were small, manure-based plants.

While that number sounds impressive compared to other countries’ developing biogas sectors, it’s the smallest annual increase since Germany adopted the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EGG) in 2000, according to the German Biogas Association, which said, along with release of the year’s data, “the pace of overall construction is somewhat disappointing.”

Today, close to 9,000 plants are operating in Germany, mostly a result of the EGG. The EGG established a distributed energy generation model that fixed a purchase price for each type of renewable energy generation, and guaranteed a connection to the electrical grid. Updated every three years to shift and revise incentives, the most recent reform goes into effect in 2017. The GBA says previous changes have come at a detriment to the industry. Claudius da Costa Gomez, general manager of the German Biogas Association said they have “created extremely poor conditions for the biogas industry in Germany. As a flexible complement to wind and solar plants, biogas power for safe and stable renewable energy supply is essential.”

According to the GBA, the total installed capacity of all 8,856 biogas plants amounts to 4,018 MW, power supplied to about 8 million homes in Germany.  Not only is biogas an important electricity provider in Germany, the GBA said, but when electrical demand is high, or when intermittent sources of energy like wind and solar are low, stored biogas can be used. The German biogas industry’s current storage capabilities total 100 MW.

The GBA predicts that the industry will add 26 MW of capacity in 2016, and, as in 2015, will mostly be small, manure-based plants. With the update that goes into effect January 1, the annual cap for biogas plants is set at 150 MW electrical capacity from 2017 to 2019, increasing to 200 MW per year from 2020 to 2022.

With the new rules, the feed-in tariff system will be eliminated, and instead an auction system will replace it. "Biogas has an important function as a storable energy source for reliable provision of electricity, as a heat source, for the creation of nutrient cycles with organic waste and for the regional value," da Costa Gomez said.  “With the 2017 EEG, we hope the current stagnation of the German biogas market can be overcome, so we can see more new investments, maintenance of existing assets, and expanded production that can be made more flexible.”