This week saw the release of an important new report on biomass in the low-carbon economy from the CCC. Importantly, it notes the valuable role that sustainable biomass can play in contributing to energy generation – especially if we exploit organic waste streams efficiently. The ADBA commented that: “The CCC is absolutely right that the government should continue to support AD deployment to ensure that the industry can make the maximum possible contribution towards tackling climate change.”
The report comes as the bio-energy sector is concerned about support being withdrawn from renewable energy faster than envisaged when FIT and RHI incentives were created over a decade ago by the last Labour government. But are we overlooking the progress that has been made in transforming the energy sector?
Like the renewables industry, Clearfleau has been through some ups and downs in the past 10 years, in part due to government policy failings, but we have also marked up some major achievements. We have played a key role in transforming the biogas sector as interest grows in potential for plants on industrial sites. We are now looking to export our technology for use on dairy plants in Europe and further afield.
We continue to work with long-standing clients but are also developing on-site solutions with new ones. For example, a leading dairy company is planning to bring bio-energy to several sites to reduce costs and boost efficiency. Having undertaken a number of studies and smaller projects, for them and other companies, bio-energy and water efficiency are becoming a higher priority.
Another current project involves a small but established company in the premium end of the food sector. With higher-value products that appeal to quality-conscious consumers, such companies recognise the value in protecting the environment. Using bio-energy in the production process sits alongside initiatives like supporting bees, internal action to cut plastic use and reducing food miles.
While many businesses are keen to reduce their impact on the environment, they also need support from stakeholders and regulators. We are driving this forward by talking to officials at BEIS this month along with other industry partners to highlight some of the key benefits of on-site bio-energy plants:
- Resource Efficiency
More food companies are aware of the latent energy value of their production residues. Multi-nationals are boosting resource efficiency by adapting manufacturing practices to include generating on-site renewable energy, while avoiding waste as part of developing a more circular economy. Delivering this technology on SME sites has additional engineering challenges.
- Low Carbon Manufacture
Reducing carbon and GHG emissions are key goals for the food sector and its regulators. On-site bio-treatment can reduce the carbon footprint of a factory site, due to the significantly lower energy input required compared with more traditional systems. We can combine carbon reduction by cutting fossil fuel with reduced off-site haulage of residues and water recycling.
- Disposal Practices
Extracting bio-energy from process residues reduces effluent disposal and/or treatment costs. Haulage costs for removing higher strength bio-residues from an industrial site can be significant; one client is spending over £2m on residue disposal but could earn as much by generating bio-energy from the residues while minimising their off-site disposal costs.
- Greener Industry
Industry is under pressure to reduce its impact on the environment. Bio-treatment and bio-energy generation are more resource-efficient means of handling process residues. They can also be part of a wider CSR strategy. But we must also ensure that such plants genuinely reduce emissions rather than increase them.
Responsible food companies want to do more to protect the environment, which has a direct bearing on the quality of their ingredients and the supply of their raw materials. So, the message we will be taking to BEIS Ministers and the food industry is that making better use of processing residues is a key step on the path towards greater industrial efficiency. Better resource use within a more circular economy will combat climate change, help protect our planet and enhance the quality of our rural environment.