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Renewable energy incentives needed for food and drink manufacturers

15 March 2019

Anaerobic digestion in the food and drink industry is said to be growing eight-times slower than it is in the agriculture sector, which is leading to millions of tonnes of waste going unused. 

According to water and wastewater asset management company, Alpheus Environmental, there is a need for more support for large-scale food and drink manufacturers who want to install anaerobic digestion facilities on-site.
Analysis of existing funding and incentives found that it is more cost-effective for large-scale manufacturers to offset their energy usage by purchasing off-site renewable energy assets than produce energy from the company’s own waste.
At present, it is more cost-effective for a large-scale food or beverage company to invest in a wind farm in Scotland – for example – than it is to install an on-site anaerobic digestion facility.
Current funding and incentives for anaerobic digestion projects favour farmers and small-scale food manufacturers and processers. As a result, anaerobic digestion in those sectors is thriving with the number of agricultural plants across the UK rising from 50 in 2012 to 450 in 2018, marking an 800% increase.  Meanwhile, there are less than 50 industrial-sized factories housing on-site anaerobic digestion plants in the UK, marking an increase of 100% since 2012 according to ADBA data.
Steven Wilcox, head of business development at Alpheus Environmental, part of Anglian Water Group, said: “We meet with large-scale manufacturers who want to do the right thing and meet their sustainability targets, but at present the incentives simply aren’t there for them to choose anaerobic digestion.
“With Brexit generating uncertainty in relation to ingredient sourcing and exports over the next 5 years, large-scale manufacturers see the multi-million-pound investment needed to install anaerobic digestion technology as being a considerable risk.  The Government, wastewater management industry and the food & beverage sector itself need to work together to make anaerobic digestion a more appealing and accessible option for industrial-sized companies.”
In addition to increased funding and incentives for industrial-scale manufacturers, Alpheus has suggested that a new green energy and circular economy product marking be considered for manufacturers who invest in on-site renewable energy production.

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