British biogas is not taking off as fast as some in the industry had hoped – and the government stands accused of stunting its growth.
As part of wider changes to its sustainable energy plans, the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) launched a snap consultation over its subsidies for biogas plants at the end of May. “When we first introduced the ‘one size fits all’ [tariff] in November 2011 there were no full-scale biomethane-to-grid plants in operation,” it said. Since then, DECC claims, plants supplying more than two megawatts have been over-compensated for their efforts.
Elsewhere, the department has proposed the introduction of a banding system for the biogas industry, introducing different payments for different types of biogas plant, all of which could hit investment into the growing bio-energy sector.
Industry leaders are worried. “The pace and depth of the changes are concerning,” says Dr Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association. “The industry is going to have to work fast to ensure these proposals help rather than hinder the sustainable growth of the UK green gas industry.”
It’s a complex issue and one that exposes problems underlying the sector’s sudden growth. Since 2011, the number of biogas plants has doubled to 109, with the National Farmers Union (NFU) recommending that 1,000 be built by 2020. Many environmentalists are happy that the UK is making progress towards the government’s commitment to providing 15% of the UK’s energy from renewable sources. But others are anxious about the impact this rapid development is having onagriculture and the environment.