Disappointing Budget – Lacking a Green Vision
Driving change in a time of political and commercial uncertainty has its challenges. The UK Government needs to support the transition to low carbon manufacturing, which should include investment in British bio-engineering to help UK manufacturers develop a more carbon efficient economy.
Despite some green measures, including further support for electric vehicles and additional funding for cleantech innovation, the 2017 budget failed to deliver more clarity on plans to boost industrial energy efficiency or renewable heat. Also Brexit continues to be a major distraction, not just due to demands on Ministers and officials but also because some politicians who are hard line supporters of Brexit also question the validity of climate change data and oppose EU leadership on emissions reduction.
The Government wants to be at the forefront of science that is shaping the future of ultra-low carbon vehicles but some doubts remain about over-reliance on electric vehicles. The impact that mass use of electric vehicles could have on future demand for electricity and power grid capacity is still uncertain, and may require additional nuclear plants like the much derided Hinkley Point.
Alongside this budget with its very faint green tinge, this week Tesla announced plans to develop electric powered trucks. While we don’t yet know how much Tesla’s trucks will cost, clean electricity is not the only option for powering HGVs. Scania and Iveco supply gas-powered trucks that are designed for compressed natural gas but can also use biomethane generated from anaerobic digestion. SEAT has a range of gas-fuelled cars and vans with increasing sales in Spain and Italy.
We must highlight gas alternatives to electric power for commercial transport. Biogas, converted into biomethane, can fuel commercial trucks that require more torque than offered by electric power, at a more affordable price. Also, we should soon see more affordable hydrogen power solutions.
In 2018, Clearfleau is building new biogas plants in Scotland’s distillery and dairy sector. We are also commissioning our latest plant on a vegetable processing site in southern England, while developing our technology for use on SME sites and evaluating export opportunities in Europe’s dairy sector.
Our on-site plants generate biogas from process residues which can supply heat to production processes or help power factory sites on a 24/7 basis, dramatically reducing a site’s carbon emissions.
Speaking at the Future of Biogas Europe Conference in November, I highlighted the contrast in support for low carbon solutions between Scottish politicians (cross-party backing for decentralised renewable energy) and their lukewarm colleagues in Westminster. To address this the bioenergy sector must do more to highlight the case for replacing industrial fossil fuels with on-site bio-energy.
In recent years, misguided government policy has encouraged larger biogas plants in place of multiple smaller plants. Before Brexit occurs, we should facilitate low carbon manufacturing by promoting use of decentralised energy on smaller factory sites and in more remote rural communities.
So how can we change policy in Westminster to match the greener approach in Scotland? We need a more supportive low carbon framework that encourages wider use of decentralised bio-energy. To persuade politicians that energy generated from industrial residues can help fuel the factories of the future, we need the food industry to put pressure on MPs and officials in BEIS, DEFRA and the Treasury.