28 Nov 2011 08:11:43
Anaerobic digestion: delivering growth
Anaerobic digestion is a renewable technology that can make a real difference. Its flexibility means that it draws in many complementary industries. With George Osborne's autumn statement due this week (29 November) the country is not expecting good news on the rate of economic growth. Supporting the growth of the AD industry offers the government an opportunity to help address this, however. Not only can AD help the UK meet its climate change and greenhouse gas emissions targets, it also has the ability to help drive economic growth and employment in other areas, such as the construction, farming, waste collection, water and waste water treatment and transport sectors.
The tightened purse strings facing everyone at all levels of society and business is the perfect opportunity for the government to deliver on its commitment to AD. This is an industry that can drive growth in the UK economy by supporting a strong and sustainable agricultural sector, creating 35,000 jobs, increasing energy security by supplying a fifth of the UK's domestic gas demand, replacing a quarter of carbon intensive commercial fertilisers – thus reducing our dependence and creating a new marketplace for digestate biofertiliser – at the same time as dealing with our organic waste in the most environmentally beneficial way.
The challenge now is realising this potential, and overcoming the barriers which still remain. While the government committed to "a huge increase in waste to energy through anaerobic digestion" in the Coalition Agreement, delivering on this promise seems to be less than plain sailing. Without confidence in the long term security of financial subsidies, a coherent source segregated recycling policy, and greater recognition of the role AD can play in supporting food security and farming best practice, this potential is in danger.
The industry will come together to discuss and address these challenges on 14 December, at the ADBA National Conference 2011. ADBA chairman and Liberal Democrat peer Lord Redesdale said: "AD is already happening: companies like Sainsbury's and Waitrose are already on board and sending their food waste to AD. We need this support from business echoed in government, giving confidence to the finance sector so that we can help jump start the economy.
"The promise of AD is totally dependent on its feedstocks. We need clear direction to follow the waste hierarchy and ensure that waste streams are treated by the technology that delivers the most benefit, and for organic wastes this is AD."
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