Scotland’s government is keen to encourage investment in decentralised energy generation and ministers in Westminster are about to declare their ambitions for a “Clean Growth Strategy”. So, how should policy change to support British industry, particularly smaller businesses, with the transition to low-carbon manufacturing?
In the food and drink sector (and elsewhere), industrial investment in clean-tech manufacturing is essential to curb carbon emissions. This should include generating renewable energy from process residues and reducing fossil fuel use, for both the production and transport of raw materials and finished products.
On-site anaerobic digestion can convert 98% of biodegradable material into biogas, enabling companies to extract the latent energy value from their process residues. In a recent article for the Institution for Engineering and Technology, Clearfleau highlights some of the technical challenges faced by smaller businesses, if they are to embrace the on-site conversion of their residues into bio-energy and reduce carbon emissions.
Greater synergy is required between national energy and industrial policy, if smaller businesses are to change how they handle their residues to extract energy from them. Bio-energy plants must be viable in the longer term without support from incentives or subsidies but in the short-term businesses need encouragement to make better use of their bio-residues.
While more UK factory sites are installing bio-energy plants, conversion of residues into energy is not yet the norm. We need a more creative approach from policymakers if we are to deliver industrial growth alongside reduced carbon emissions and greater resource efficiency, with on-site bio-energy playing its part.
I hope ministers at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will use the publication of their “Clean Growth Strategy” this autumn to update targets for industrial carbon reduction. They also should be doing more to assist smaller (SME) businesses with their carbon reduction planning, including creating a network of low carbon technology demonstration sites.
The potential benefits to both business and the economy are substantial. Replacing fossil fuels with biogas from on-site anaerobic digestion will enable more SMEs to embrace the circular economy. The only outputs are bio-energy, cleansed water and bio-solids (a source of soil nutrients for growing crops to supply the factory). Biogas can be combusted in a boiler to supply hot water or steam or used to power a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) unit, generating electricity and heat. Or, if the gas is upgraded to bio-methane, it can be fed into the natural gas grid or compressed for use as fuel in commercial vehicles.
Clearfleau’s plants are designed to optimise the treatment of process residues and to maximise potential energy output, revenue and hence payback potential. By developing a more modular approach to design, our AD plants can be built off site, prior to installation on SME sites. This approach will also help us develop export opportunities for our technology.
With pressure mounting on UK food and beverage manufacturers to adopt a more circular approach to resource use, Government support is needed in the short term to facilitate the transition process among SME businesses.
Download the IET Article hereClick here