Southwold: Regulations ‘hamper’ Adnams green energy scheme
A TEAM of developers behind a pioneering renewable energy venture are hoping to realise its full potential by convincing regulators to lift controls on gas production.
Adnams Bio Energy is a joint enterprise by Southwold’s brewery and Bio Group, a leading developer of anaerobic digestion (AD), an alternative to landfill which breaks down organic material in the absence of oxygen to yield a biogas containing methane.
But the UK’s first AD plant to produce renewable gas with brewery and local food waste cannot operate as envisaged until regulator Ofgem relaxes its directives, according to Bio Group chief executive Steve Sharratt.
Adnams, which produced the first carbon-neutral beer in 2008, is already supplying the National Grid with renewable gas and wants eventually to produce enough energy to power itself.
Retailers including Waitrose subscribed to the initiative by providing food waste for the plant, which is still required by Ofgem to use either costly equipment or fossil fuel in the process.
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Mr Sharratt said Adnams Bio Energy was required by Ofgem to use North Sea gas and add propane to the mix, while the National Grid is content with cheaper alternative methods. “By injecting propane into gas at a cost of �40,000 a year, we are in theory using a fossil fuel to get renewable energy. We have been advised there is otherwise a technical risk of breaching regulations,” he said. “The scientists are content and the risk assessors are content. We can’t be sitting around forever.”
Other issues faced by the team are rigid maximum oxygen levels and strict controls on the calorific value of gas, which determines the amount of energy transported by National Grid and differs from area to area.
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Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey has leant her support to the Adnams Bio Energy team, saying she hoped for a “common sense” outcome.
Ofgem said its issue was with biogas having a lower calorific value than North Sea gas, which it says could mean costumers being charged unfairly. A spokesman said: “We are not trying to stand in the way of the facility being developed.”