Bio-Energy and Future Industrial Strategy
Should we be optimistic about the future potential for the bio-economy, despite the election of a US President with no interest in combating climate change or investing in clean technologies? Support for investing in low carbon technologies appears to be growing among global industry leaders but it would be more encouraging if renewables and the circular economy were at the heart of industrial strategy in preparation for Brexit.
As Government re-thinks its industrial strategy (see the Green Paper “Building Our Industrial Strategy” – January 2017) in the run up to Brexit, British bio-engineering companies should be promoting the development of a more circular economy. The industrial deployment of low carbon engineering solutions deserves to be given a higher profile in Britain’s industrial policy.
Future Industrial Strategy should Include Support For Development.
I believe that on-site bio-energy can support emissions reduction and clean growth. Industrial strategy should include support for development of emerging green-tech businesses plus the necessary engineering skills. The low carbon economy may feature in one of the 10 strategic “pillars” in the Green Paper but investment in bio-energy needs sustained support if British firms are to thrive, alongside technologies being developed in the EU and across the globe.
Despite wider policy concerns, Clearfleau is entering an exciting phase in our development. The business is now established as an industrial bio-energy provider, building more sophisticated on-site plants. There is continued interest in converting process residues into on-site energy.
In the next 18 months we are embarking on multiple projects on food, dairy and distillery sites. In addition to several gas to grid plants comparable to the award winning plant at Lake District Biogas (LDB), we are building bio-energy plants on smaller sites – including a new craft distillery.
Last month, we were delighted to win the 2017 Edie Sustainability Leaders Award for Resource Management Award for a dairy sector project. We will showcase this plant and current projects at Edie Live at the Birmingham NEC from 23rd to 24th May 2017 – visit us on stand L41.
Global Food companies Set Ambitious Targets
With global food companies like Diageo, Nestle and Unilever setting ambitious targets for reducing GHG emissions and development of a more circular approach to resource use, this needs to be matched by British companies, large and small. But will this happen without a clear lead from Government and strategic support for industrial investment in renewables?
15th February: I am chairing a session at the ADBA Scottish national conference 2017Find Out More
The new “future industrial strategy” lacks a clear vision for developing the circular economy, including decentralized energy generation does include some energy and clean tech commitments:
• Investment and commercialization of energy storage technology
• Support for research and development of smart energy technologies
• Transition to low-emission technologies across the transport sector
• Support for clean tech and the transition to a low carbon economy
• Investment in reducing industries energy costs and “clean growth”
However, this strategy falls short of aspirations for a more circular economy. The UK should match its support for the COP21 Climate Change Convention with action to boost deployment of on-site decentralised energy. The groundbreaking agreement stimulated the ambitions of leading global food companies for more production to be powered by renewable energy.
Government Policy Makers Should be More Engaged
Improved resource management must be part of Britain’s business development strategy in the run-up to Brexit – to ensure the UK can meet sustainability requirements in export markets. On-site bio-energy will allow the food and beverage industry to reduce its environmental footprint and overcome the perceived ambivalence about levels of waste in the food chain. Investment and a more active role for Government can be justified by the following benefits:
• Improved Resource Use – treating process residues a resource to generate energy on site will help minimize off-site transport of bio-residues and liquid effluents.
• Revenue Replacing Costs – many sites ignore the energy value of their residues but with on-site generation, residues become a source of revenue and lower energy costs.
• Lower Carbon Emissions – energy used for treatment of effluents or their transport to disposal sites is a significant use of fossil fuel that adds to industry’s carbon output.
• Decentralised Bio-energy – replacing existing solutions that consume energy with new processes that generate renewable heat and power that can be used on factory sites.
• Combatting Energy Risks – on-site bio-energy can improve performance of sites that are facing increased competition as well as reducing fuel and residue disposal costs.
Government policy makers should be more engaged with the food and beverage industry and companies developing on-site bio-energy and related technologies to ensure the UK is part of this transition – deploying novel technologies but also investing in British clean tech solutions.
22nd March: I will be speaking at the Scottish Renewables Annual ConferenceFind Out More
Industry will be monitoring technology as it evolves, including power generation and storage systems based on hydrogen or fuel cells. British companies are developing fuel cell applications for bio-energy production as well as hydrogen technology and efficient battery systems.
Lithium Ion batteries may have more immediate applications in the electric vehicle sector, but there is scope for power storage solutions on factory sites, helping balance renewable energy supply with demand at times of peak electricity costs. Also novel systems for generation of zero-carbon power are being developed, linked to advanced battery technologies.
These novel technologies can be installed alongside on-site anaerobic plants replacing outdated treatment solutions for disposal of energy rich residues. Creating a more circular economy, will change business models that arose when levels of resource use were of less concern.
For instance, with bio-energy replacing diesel, a future scenario could see milk collection trucks running on compressed bio-methane produced from dairy residues. Government can do more to promote the use of bio-methane in road haulage, especially as the technology already exists.
While it is hard to predict which novel energy solutions will prosper in the longer term, British industry must reduce emissions and improve resource use as part of the transition to a less wasteful economy. Government should promote decentralized bio-energy on food processing sites, large and small, alongside measures to reduce consumption and cut carbon emissions.