Ministers give boost to biogas

A new government initiative could help the meat industry reduce its carbon footprint through biogas production.

Defra ministers have met with 50 senior industry and NGO representatives to discuss plans to help the food industry to make greater use of anaerobic digestion - a technology that produces biogas from organic material such as manure and animal by-products.

Phil Woolas, Jeff Rooker and Joan Ruddock met representatives from the agriculture and biogas industries, supermmarkets, water and energy companies, waste and waste and food sectors, NGOs, Regional Development Agencies and local government to discuss practical ways to achieve a major increase in use of this environmentally friendly technology.

Delegates agreed to work with the government and each other to overcome the barriers to greater use of anaerobic digestion and to take action to increase its capacity in this country. A follow-up meeting in the autumn will review progress and set out ways to reach this goal.

Defra minister Phil Woolas said: "Anaerobic digestion is still an emerging technology outside the water treatment industry in this country, and it's clear we are not yet making full use of its potential.

"It has a number of real environmental benefits which we want to maximise, but to do this, we need to overcome certain barriers, such as the chicken and egg stand-off, which can discourage investment in unfamiliar technology, and the lack of understanding of its benefits or the value of its outputs.

The government has announced a £10m demonstration programme to provide a focus for joint action and make sure that the future of anaerobic digestion in England is as cost-effective and environmentally beneficial as possible.

The anaerobic digestion demonstration programme will be delivered through a capital grant competition run by WRAP, with assistance from the Carbon Trust. It will seek to fund between three and six projects that demonstrate the different benefits of anaerobic digestion.

Anyone interested in the anaerobic digestion demonstration programme can register for more information at: www.wrap.org.uk/ETF.