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UK AD sector sees 12% growth 2020 despite pandemic – NNFCC report

The National Non-Food Crops Centre Ltd (NNFCC) has published the eighth edition of its annual AD Deployment in the UK report. The report summarises the developments in the UK’s AD industry over the past 12 months and looks ahead to future developments in the sector.

The National Non-Food Crops Centre Ltd (NNFCC) has published the eighth edition of its annual AD Deployment in the UK report. The report summarises the developments in the UK’s AD industry over the past 12 months and looks ahead to future developments in the sector (photo courtesy NNFCC).

After such a turbulent year it is unsurprising that progress in the anaerobic digestion (AD) industry has been hampered by the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, like most other sectors. Many developments have faced significant delays in construction and commissioning, and many operational facilities have been underperforming because of feedstock constraints as the retail and hospitality sectors have been closed for a significant part of the year.

However, following very modest growth reported in the AD industry in 2019/20, NNFCC has seen a significant number of new developments commission over the past 12 months, benefitting from the various extensions offered by the Government.

The NNFCC’s eighth annual ‘AD Deployment in the UK’ report finds that there are 650 operational biogas facilities, excluding traditional wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) representing  12 percent growth since last year’s report in April 2020.

This growth being dominated by combined heat and power (CHP) plants, securing feed-in tariff (FIT) support prior to the scheme closure. NNFCC data still shows 268 plants in development, with a healthy pipeline of 49 currently in construction many of which are expected to commission in 2021, to benefit from the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) support before the final scheme closure date on March 31, 2022.

A final rush for RHI was evident, whilst the sector waited for details of the new Green Gas Support Scheme (GGSS) to be confirmed, with 10 new RHI tariff guarantee applications being made in the last quarter.

Over the past 12 months, it has been reassuring to see continued investment activity in the sector despite the wider economic uncertainty, as the industry consolidates to strengthen its position and maximize the value of the existing asset base. The recent consolidation efforts firmly indicate AD is no longer an emerging industry it is now very clearly established, and we remain excited about the future, commented Lucy Hopwood, NNFCC’s Lead Consultant for Bioenergy and Anaerobic Digestion.

In November 2020, the UK Government released its Ten Point Plan, which laid out ten key points for stimulating a green industrial revolution by harnessing a variety of low carbon technologies. It plans to bring together policy and investment, both public and private, to take advantage of a variety of low carbon technologies, while providing green jobs and securing economic growth.

Subsequently, the UK released its Energy White Paper, which provides more detail on the plans for the energy sector going forwards.

It is hoped the Government’s commitment to “build back better, build back greener and build back faster” could be the catalyst for a greener and more sustainable future across the economy, said Lucy Hopwood.

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