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Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Sector

Volume 604: debated on Thursday 7 January 2016

First, may I say how delighted I am to see my hon. Friend fully recovered and back in his place?

We support AD and biogas through the feed-in tariff scheme, the renewables obligation and the renewable heat incentive. The Government have provided £124 million of support under the renewables obligation, £53 million under the renewable heat incentive, and enough support under the feed-in tariff scheme to deploy 161 MW since 2010. These technologies can make a valuable contribution to our decarbonisation targets and we will continue to support them.

I thank my hon. Friend for her kind remarks. I recently met Salterforth resident Peter King, along with representatives of Kirk Environmental, at my Earby advice surgery to discuss anaerobic digestion and biogas. Does my hon. Friend agree that, compared with wind or solar, biogas has significant benefits in delivering predictable and consistent amounts of renewable energy into the network?

Indeed. There are real benefits for the UK in having a wide range of renewable energy sources, but my hon. Friend is right to point out that as the sector develops in the UK, biogas technologies could bring additional benefits, including providing baseload energy, injection into the gas grid and potential use as transport biofuels.

In her letter to other Departments on 29 October the Secretary of State—whom I congratulate on stressing in her letter the importance of reaching EU renewables targets in perhaps more recalcitrant Departments—she indicated that the highest potential for additional renewable heat is from biomethane injection into the grid, but she also said that we will face a shortfall against the part of that target that is related to the heat sector, even if support for her proposed measures was agreed by the Chancellor in the comprehensive spending review. Now that she has a reduced amount of money for the renewable heat incentive up to 2020, does she consider that that amount will enable us to reach our heat targets by 2020 and, if not, what new proposals will she bring forward to make sure that there is investment in this sector that can enable us to reach that target?

The hon. Gentleman is right to point out that we had a good settlement in the comprehensive spending review. We were very pleased with the commitment to enhancing—increasing—the renewable heat incentive each year between now and 2021, and we are making good progress towards that. He will realise that the fourth carbon budget is for 2023 to 2027. He would not expect us to be meeting it today, but we are putting plans in place and working towards that progress as we speak, and we will continue to set out plans during this year.

Despite more effective use of packaging, better date labelling and programmes by the supermarkets to distribute and sell food, we still generate substantial quantities of food waste. Does the Minister agree that using this resource to generate electricity is better than sending it to landfill?

I completely agree. In fact, just recently I went to see a proposed new project in my own county of Northamptonshire that is looking to use landfill to create a renewable heat scheme. Some fantastic new ideas are coming forward, and my officials and I are always very keen to hear about them and support them where we can.