The Government is creating plans to greatly increase the the number of anaerobic digesters - which produces electricity from bio-degradable material - to provide a green energy boost for Britain.
Environment Minister Lord Henley has toured BiogenGreenfinch’s Westwood plant, near Rushden, which can process 45,000T of food waste each year which generates enough electricity to power nearly 3,000 homes.
“Today I’ve seen first-hand how food scraps and out-of-date supermarket food is a valuable resource that can generate energy – rather than rubbish to be thrown away,” said Henley.
“We’ve already had constructive discussions with industry, farmers and the financial sector. Teams at Defra and DECC (Department for Energy and Climate Change) are now working hard to produce an action plan to examine how we can take practical steps to achieve a step change in the use of anaerobic digestion.”
Defra and DECC will jointly draw up an action plan by the autumn, looking at the economic capacity for the anaerobic digestion industry and the steps to be taken by Government and industry to realise this ambition.
Anaerobic digestion is a process for turning food, farm and other organic waste into energy and fuel. The UK produces about 100M T of this waste each year which could instead generate up to 7% of the renewable energy required in the UK by 2020.
Biomass waste such as animal manure, sewage sludge and waste food can be digested in the absence of oxygen to produce a methane-rich biogas which can be used to generate heat and power for industry and homes, or to provide a transport fuel. The biogas can be upgraded to biomethane which is potentially suitable for injection into the National Gas Grid.
The diversion of biodegradable wastes to anaerobic digestion can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from landfill. Digesting one tonne of food waste rather than sending it to landfill will save between 0.5 and 1T of CO2 equivalent.
There are currently around 37 anaerobic digestion plants in the UK using food and farm waste, with around 60 planned or under construction. A further 220 water treatment plants have anaerobic digestion facilities for sewage.