Farming News - Organic wastes and energy crops sow the seeds for a green future for millions

Organic wastes and energy crops sow the seeds for a green future for millions

20 Oct 2017


Green gas generated by energy crops and agricultural residues could help fuel millions of homes by 2050, according to a new report commissioned by gas distribution network Cadent.


It found that energy crops, such as miscanthus, and agricultural residues, including manure and straw, together with household rubbish and food waste, could generate between 68 and 183 TerraWatt hours of biomethane. That’s enough to meet the annual gas demand for seven to 15 million homes – potentially equivalent to domestic gas demand across the whole of south east England, London and East Anglia.


The Bioenergy Market Review, compiled by sustainable energy consultants Anthesis and E4tech, suggests that biomethane will continue to make an important contribution to renewable gas generation.


David Parkin, Cadent’s Director of Network Strategy, said: “In its Clean Growth Strategy the Government indicated that it would be exploring the potential of renewable gas and we are keen to work with them on this.


“The findings of this report show that with the right policies in place renewable gas could play a significant role in helping the UK meet its carbon reduction targets, particularly in heat and transport, which are lagging behind electricity.


“Economic studies suggest that relying solely on electricity to heat our homes and workplaces could be billions of pounds more expensive than ‘greening’ the gas network. Repurposing the existing gas network for ‘green’ gases would be over £10,000 cheaper per customer between now and 2050 and could open the door to a world-leading green industry, generating new jobs.


“Alongside other green energy solutions, renewable gas offers us an affordable, sustainable route to heat our homes and fuel transport, while tackling climate change, and contributing towards more sustainable waste management and cleaner air.”


The study recommends that the Government continue to support the development of best practice and improved sustainability frameworks, to better understand the energy-generating potential from energy crops, agricultural and forestry residues and short rotation forestry. This will also provide assurance around their sustainable use.


There are currently more than 80 biogas plants connected to Britain’s gas network. Crops, food waste, sewage and manure are fermented in anaerobic digesters – dubbed ‘concrete cows’ stomachs’ – to create biomethane.


On a single day this summer, for the first time, more than 250,000 cubic metres of renewable gas entered Cadent’s gas network, which covers North London, the Midlands, East Anglia and the North West. This is enough to heat all the homes in Liverpool or Sheffield.


The report indicates that renewable gas production could grow substantially over the next thirty years with the right support. It provides analysis of the wider range of feedstocks, including black bag wastes, which might be used should world-leading Bio-Substitute Natural Gas (BioSNG) technology be deployed more widely.


The world’s first BioSNG commercial demonstration plant, in Swindon, is due to open next year. The £25 million facility is being developed by Advanced Plasma Power, Progressive Energy, the Department of Transport, Cadent, and Wales and the West Utilities. For more information go to the website:


The Bioenergy Market Review can be found at