Construction companies throughout the UK can now capitalise on a ‘massive’ new multi-million pound market, according to Lord Rupert Redesdale, Chairman of the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA).
“We’re looking at the construction of 1000 anaerobic digestion and biogas plants over the next 10 years – a massive opportunity for the building industry. It really is the next big thing. We are looking at anything between a £2 billion and £5 billion building programme, depending on the type of technology used. We reckon that there will be around 35,000 people employed in the industry” he said.
What’s more, the main obstacles to the development of plants in the UK are now being overcome. He added, “What has been holding us back is the subsidy regime needed to get the industry off the ground which previously didn’t really make anaerobic digestion economic. However the massive rise in gas prices and the introduction of two new subsidies – the Feed in Tariff and the Renewable Heat Incentive – means that now there are a large number of companies looking to build plants throughout the country.”
In addition, specialist construction experience of anaerobic digestion and biogas plants is not always necessary, as a large proportion of the works involved in developing new plants is likely to be groundworks, building infrastructure and laying pipework “Similar to the sort of thing construction companies do every day of the week,” he said.
“To give an indication of the size of the UK industry, we are looking at the availability of something approach 100 million tonnes of organic feedstock, everything from sewage to slurry and food waste, which could be utilised by the new plants” said Lord Redesdale.
He says that the main reason for the anticipated massive growth in the development of biogas plants is the fact that whereas biogas is now turned into electricity by combined heat and power engines, in the future it is more likely to be cleaned and pumped straight into the gas grid. In fact, a small number of plants are doing this already. “The value of the gas going into the grid is extremely high and it is also a low-carbon fuel. Most people think that the majority of energy used in this country is electricity, but in fact two thirds of the energy used is gas based.”
Regarding the extent to which construction companies are likely to benefit from this major new market, Lord Redesdale says: “That depends on how much construction firms are prepared to understand the industry to ensure that they are providing the type of services required.
“The trouble is that people hear about anaerobic digestion and equate it to the chicken manure engine scenario in ‘The Good Life’ TV series, whereas at the top end we’re talking about large plants processing between 50,000 and 80,000 tonnes of waste per annum, which is currently going to landfill.”
“Anaerobic digestion is linked into recycling, waste disposal, energy production – and even more important, the digestate (which is the residue), is a form of bio fertilizer which can replace carbon-intensive artificial fertilisers to make British agriculture more sustainable in the future.”
The ADBA is the main trade body for the industry in the UK, with around 250 members, including many household names such as British Gas, E.ON, Bioerdgas GmbH, Waitrose, Morrisons, United Utilities and Coca Cola.
The development of anaerobic digestion is fundamental to the UK achieving both its renewable energy targets and a carbon free future says ADBA. At a cost of just £5 billion and with the potential to produce £1.7 billion worth of gas each year at today’s prices, developing anaerobic digestion would be a valuable investment.
The Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA) has been established to represent all businesses involved in the anaerobic digestion and biogas industry, to help remove the barriers they face and to support its members to grow their businesses. Its principal aim is to enable and facilitate the development of a mature anaerobic digestion industry in the UK within 10 years.