Residents of Bristol could soon be cooking their evening meal using energy produced from poo, thanks to a new partnership announced yesterday between local utility Bristol Energy and anaerobic digestion experts GENeco. GENeco, the company behind the UK’s first bio-bus powered by sewage and liquid organic waste, is now supplying Bristol Energy with biomethane from sewage waste collected from the homes of a million people in the local area. GENeco now treats 75,000,000m3 of sewage waste every year, enough to power more than 8,000 homes with green gas. Customers who sign up to Bristol Energy’s My Green Plus tariff will receive 15 per cent green gas and 100 per cent green electricity, compared to a national average of 0.1 per cent. As well as using sewage to create green gas, GENeco also collects food waste as feedstock. Last October GENeco launched the first vehicle in the UK to both collect and run on commercial food waste. The Bio-Bee truck collects food waste and takes it to GENeco’s anaerobic digestion plant, where the waste is processed to remove any plastic and then turned into low carbon biogas.
A new fleet of buses that run on biomethane have been unveiled by Nottingham City Transport (NCT). The £17m double-decker bus fleet will be powered by a biogas produced by sewage and waste. NCT engineering director, Gary Mason, said: ‘We are hugely proud of our new biogas buses. This is the largest order for gas double decks in the world and is the culmination of our extensive research into alternative fuels. ‘When [biomethane] is used, emissions are 84% lower than their diesel counterparts, thereby making them – from ‘well to wheel’ – the greenest buses on the road.’ The Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association (ADBA) said the Government should provide more support for low-carbon transport fuels such as biomethane. ADBA chief executive, Charlotte Morton, said: ‘Scania’s new Bio-Gas buses are a great example of the effectiveness of biomethane as a low-carbon, low-cost transport fuel that can help to reduce the scandalous levels of air pollution we see in towns and cities across the UK, costing thousands of lives each year.
Barrow Green Gas (BGG) has ‘launched’ biomethane into the UK national gas network for a record 33 biomethane producers – more than any other gas shipper in Great Britain – as new regulatory environmental reporting alongside financial reporting requirements impacts large corporate. Every month more green gas comes available via BGG as new biomethane producers connect to the grid and existing ones produce increasing amounts. Tim Davis, Managing Director, BGG, said: “2016 is the year where we have seen green gas really take off with increasing numbers of producers injecting green gas into the existing gas grid. This year we saw our gas being supplied to some of the UK’s leading renewable energy suppliers, with Good Energy and Green Energy UK offering green gas to customers. We are also supplying CNG Fuels with green gas as a transport fuel that is being used by Waitrose, John Lewis, Argos and Brit European – a great alternative to diesel.” The UK has the fastest growing green gas market in the world and dedicated biomethane shipper, BGG, is the largest shipper of biomethane. In addition, BGG markets green gas certificates (GGCs), the value of which is now considerably increased for companies when reporting their emissions.
The number of anaerobic digestion (AD) plants delivering green gas to the grid has doubled in the past year to almost 90 sites, according to the latest figures from the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA). The industry group’s annual Market Report revealed that in addition to a surge in the number of facilities injecting biomethane into the grid the total number of AD plants in the UK has risen from 424 to 540 in the past year. The group said AD technologies have already reduced UK greenhouse gas emissions by nearly one per cent annually. The investment in new capacity has been achieved despite changes to the Renewable Heat Incentive and wider policy environment, which some within the industry have accused of hampering the expansion of the sector. Charlotte Morton, chief executive of ADBA, said the growth of the sector, in particular in terms of the number of grid connections, demonstrated that “green gas has gone mainstream” over the past two years. “Biomethane [is] now heating around 170,000 homes in the UK without the householder needing to do anything differently themselves,” she said. “Biomethane to grid is a real success story for the Renewable Heat Incentive, and we look forward to the government setting out its plans for the next phase of the support scheme.” The report comes just days after National Grid Gas Distribution announced it has secured £4.8m of funding from Ofgem to support a pilot project designed to boost the use of green gas across the grid. The three-year pilot study aims to update the way gas bills are calculated, to take into account more of the green, lower carbon alternatives to natural gas that are increasingly coming online.
A Spanish small-wind turbine manufacturer has launched a new integrated biogas solution for agricultural, utility and industrial users throughout the UK. Known as the Norvento-BioPlant, the system enables small and medium sized companies and landowners to sustainably manage organic waste and turn it into renewable gas, electricity or both, allowing them to take a step towards energy independence. Norvento’s BioPlant is a medium sized system for the agricultural and landfill waste sectors that will benefit from the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) and Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) sweet spots, which range between 150kWh for electricity and 600kWh for heat.
The grass is always greener than the gas on the other side, according to a British businessman who claims grasslands could provide enough gas to heat all of the UK’s homes. Dale Vince, the chairman of renewable energy company Ecotricity, is investing £10m in the first of a generation of what he calls ‘green gas mills’ that he says could compete against gas from fracking. The company said its Hampshire plant at Sparsholt College, which has planning permission and is slated to be operational in 2018, will take grass harvested from nearby fields and break it down in an anaerobic digester. Grass at the plant would be turned into biomethane within 45 days and then injected into the national network, providing the heating needs of more than 4,000 homes. A report by Ecotricity on Thursday said there are around 6m hectares of suitable grassland in the UK, not including arable land for crops. It argued this would be enough to match the amount of gas the National Grid forecasts homes will consume by 2035, but doing so would require the building of around 5,000 mills akin to the Hampshire one. Vince admitted that getting to that point would be a huge challenge, given no other country had done it before and it was a new approach in the UK. “It would be a massive undertaking but it would be permanent. Grass keeps growing, it doesn’t run out, unlike gas from fracking. Most of the value would be in the hands of farmers who, post-Brexit, may be in need of it,” he told the Guardian. The company is planning four other mills in addition to the one at Sparsholt College – in Somerset, Cambridgeshire, Shropshire, Wiltshire. Ecotricity is lobbying the government to secure subsidies for the plants, via the renewable heat incentive, which currently excludes support for grass.
The production of energy crops for use in biomass power plants or biofuel refineries has long been controversial, with critics arguing that they undermine food production and can often fail to deliver promised greenhouse gas emission reductions. But according to new research from the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI), some second-generation energy crops can help farmers diversify their income while helping to boost the productivity of their land. The studies found that energy crops can complement other farming activities as they can be grown on land which is less suitable for grazing or food production because of poor soil quality or waterlogging.
Yesterday we launched The Green Gas Book.- a series of essays exploring the development of “green gas” (or more accurately, “green gases”), written by experts in the field. This book looks at the range of those green gases – biomethane, hydrogen, bio-substitute natural gas (bioSNG) and biopropane – their uses, benefits and potential challenges in their application. While no one of these green gases is the perfect solution, we may think of them as “10% solutions,” which, together with developments such as district heating schemes, would go a long way towards helping us decarbonise the heat sector. This book was commissioned by Labour’s frontbench energy team and has been produced in co-ordination with the PLP’s energy and climate change committee. We hope that it can serve as an important contribution to policy discussion.
Farmers are leading a backlash against the Government’s latest cut to green energy subsidies, warning it will deprive the struggling agricultural sector of a valuable source of income. In a consultation quietly published late last month, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) proposed slashing subsidies for anaerobic digestion (AD) plants. Anaerobic digesters take organic materials, such as crops or agricultural waste, and break them down using bacteria to produce “biogas” and fertiliser. The gas can then be burnt to produce electricity, or processed and sold into the mains gas grid. DECC plans to remove subsidies for big new AD plants and cut support for smaller new plants. Farmers’ union the NFU has warned the changes could sound the “death knell” for new biogas on farms. It estimates that farmers own about 200 AD plants, about two-thirds of all such plants in the UK, while up to 1,000 farms may have an interest in AD, for example by supplying them with crops. Dr Jonathan Scurlock, NFU chief adviser on renewable energy said: “We are very worried now. This is bad news for the rural economy, and bad for agricultural efforts to tackle climate change.” He said there was a pipeline of up to 500 further AD plants in the early stages of development but that farmers would struggle to get financing for projects under the proposed cuts.
Wyke Farms, which generates electricity, gas and heat from renewable sources, is a dairy business in southwest England, which exports 14,000 tonnes of cheddar a year to more than 160 countries. It has been building an energy generation and water recycling operation over the past five years to reduce its environmental impact and save money. It’s been able to lower its energy bills by nearly £100,000 per month as a result. Aside from solar panels, Wyke generates electricity and heat from cow dung.