As Britain gears up to host the United Nations Climate Change Summit, COP26, in November 2021, policymakers need to demonstrate how well they have lived up to their sustainability commitments and what actions they are taking to meet their goals.
The recommended pathway requires a 78% reduction in the UK territorial emissions across heat, waste, agriculture and transport between 1990 and 2035, pulling the UK’s previous 80% target by nearly 15 years. There are, however, a few sustainable energy options that merit British investment and offer high returns.
1. Food waste collection and treatment
At present, about 10 million tonnes of food is wasted every year in Britain, with about 7.3 million coming from households. Only a small fraction of this food waste is collected for waste recycling meaning much of it is going to landfill. This makes depressing reading when you consider 60% of food waste is completely avoidable.
Therefore, the UK Government has laid out a new policy in its Resources and Waste Strategy mandating separate food waste collection for all local authorities from 2023.
This opens up new opportunities for councils and food waste management suppliers to work together and divert more waste from households and industries towards Anaerobic Digestion or composting.
With current technology, the UK can generate almost 8 million cubic metres of biomethane by 2030. Biomethane is a highly sustainable way to reduce the carbon footprint of the heat and transport industries, and 8 million cubic metres of it can heat around 6 million homes when diverted into the national power grid.
Biomethane is generated from biogas that has been processed through a combined heat and power (CHP) plant.
At present, however, Britain is only producing about one-fifth of the potential amount of biomethane.
An investment of about £20.3million will be needed to set up the 4500 plants necessary to hit the potential amount
As steps towards this goal, the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) has gone up, creating more opportunities for biomethane producers to earn money from the sale of Renewable Transport Fuel Certificates.
In addition, the UK Government has announced that a follow-up to the Renewable Heat Incentive — the primary support system for the biomethane industry — is on the cards.
3. On-farm Anaerobic Digestion
The new Agriculture Bill seeks to compensate farmers financially for adopting sustainable farming practices. Perhaps the best way to make farming environment-friendly is by embracing Anaerobic Digestion.
Anaerobic Digestion involves breaking down organic material into carbon dioxide and methane gas in a unique digester without oxygen.
The process takes place in a sealed vessel called a reactor that comprises complicated microbial communities that break down waste and generate biogas and digestate, which is released from the digester.
With the National Farmers’ Union committing to decarbonise agriculture by 2040 and with the ending of the Common Agriculture Policy post-Brexit, on-farm AD will become the go-to option for British farmers.
At present, there are about 375 AD plants in the UK. To fully capture and process the 90 million tonnes of agricultural waste, Britain will need to raise the number of plants to 3200, which will call for an investment of around £8.5billion.
With AD, farmers can reduce their carbon footprint and save money on fertilisers, as the byproduct of the digestion process is a semi-solid substance rich in agricultural nutrients.
It also helps combat foul odours from waste left in landfills and occupies only about half as much space as a composting unit.
The future is bright (and green)
The 2020s, in many ways, will be the determining decade for climate change mitigation and reversal around the world. Britain has set itself a Net Zero target for 2050, which means eliminating its net carbon emissions.
To achieve as ambitious a target as this calls for systematic investment in alternative energy options, which, luckily, Britain has already been doing.
In total, Britain produces about 100 million tonnes of organic waste material every year, much of which can be diverted to sustainable energy production rather than landfill.
Done right, biogas and Anaerobic Digestion can contribute to around 30% of the 2030 Carbon Budget — a significant number.
The time is now for future-oriented investors to place their bets on sustainable energy solutions and establish Britain as a world leader in building a green economy.
If you are interested in learning how your business can do its bit for the green energy revolution, please contact us today!