Agriculture must accelerate its transition to anaerobic digestion

Agriculture must accelerate its transition to anaerobic digestion

/ Renewables / Sunday, 16 September 2018 06:25

After a meeting held in Rennes in the framework of the exhibition of animal production (Space), experts said that only 500 units of anaerobic digestion are operating in France, while the Ministry of Ecological Transition intends to accelerate the development of this renewable energy sector.

“This is a very modest development compared to the objectives of Stéphane Le Foll, former Minister of Agriculture, and compared to what is done in other European countries,” said Gilles Petitjean, Director of ADEME (Environment and Energy Management Agency) Britain.

Eighty percent of these 500 units nationally are of agricultural origin, and the rest are of communities or factories, especially in the agri-food industry.

Launched in the spring of 2013 by Le Foll and the Minister of Ecology, Delphine Batho, the plan “Methane Energy and Nitrogen Autonomy” (EMAA) provided “1,000 on-farm biogas plants in 2020”, with the dual objective of reducing fertilizers by replacing them with nitrogen from livestock effluents and developing renewable energies as part of the energy transition.

In late March, the Ministry of Ecological Transition announced a series of measures to accelerate the development of this sector, to consider a new breath for anaerobic digestion. This allows the production of gas - from the fermentation of agricultural residues or household waste in particular - which can then be injected into the gas network or burned to produce electricity.

The energy transition law sets the target that by 2030, 10% of the gas should be of renewable origin.

Another advantage of anaerobic digestion in agriculture is to allow diversification and it’s an additional source of income for farms, Petitjean recalled.

At present, around 80 agricultural methanation units are operating in Britain. “We need to reach 50 to 100 installations per year” in the region, said the representative of ADEME.

Compared to other sources of renewable energy, one of the advantages of anaerobic digestion is its “flexibility”. This technique has “an ability to adapt its production in real time” - produce more or less, according to the needs at a given moment, said Jean-Philippe Lamarcade, regional director Enedis.

Anaerobic digestion can also provide gas that has a “large storage capacity, unlike electricity,” elaborated Eric Feuillet, biomethane project manager at GRDF. There are currently “50/60 biomethane installations attached to the network in France,” he said.

Often cited as an example, the comparison with Germany, which counted 2,300 units of anaerobic digestion in 2017, proves difficult to attain, said the participants, because “here, we work waste, while in Germany, they put corn” in their units.

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