NFU criticises new Defra implementation plan for anaerobic digestion uptake

A new plan launched by Defra to encourage more investment in anaerobic digestion has been slammed by the NFU for being biased towards larger businesses.

Accelerating the Uptake of Anaerobic Digestion in England: An Implementation Plan sets out ways in which the Government is supporting growers, farmers, other businesses and local authorities in adopting the technology.

Launching the document, environment secretary Hilary Benn said: "Anaerobic digestion has fantastic potential because it uses organic material that would otherwise be thrown away and converts it into renewable energy. I've already seen great examples of this technology in use and the implementation plan will help speed up its use across the economy."

Many of the incentives published in the report are not new but are existing measures established a few years ago.

Defra has, for example, listed the ongoing £10m anaerobic digestion demonstration programme, which is financially supporting the construction of model anaerobic digestion plants as one of its support mechanisms.

The feed-in tariffs for renewable electricity generation, introduced this month, are also listed.

The NFU, which was part of the Anaerobic Digestion Task Force that advised the Government on the implementation plan, has therefore criticised it for being underdeveloped.

NFU chief adviser on renewable energy and climate change Jonathan Scurlock said: "This plan offers little in the way of new Government actions, and is a disappointing end to a prolonged dialogue with Defra. The right economic and regulatory framework is yet to be established."

He added: "The inadequate feed-in tariffs were a missed opportunity to encourage uptake at the small to medium scale and it is far from clear that compliance with the proposed standard environmental permits will be cheap or easy."

The Environment Agency has developed new standard permits for anaerobic digestion plants that are not exempt from the need for a permit but are below the level that would make them subject to the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive.

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