Green Investment Bank Mulling £50m Anaerobic Digestion Investment

Market report says technology is “at the heart” of its waste investment strategy By Will Nichols 11 Jun 2013 The Green Investment Bank (GIB) has said anaerobic digestion (AD) projects are “at the heart” of its waste investment strategy, revealing that it is currently considering direct investment of up to £50m in the sector. The news comes in a report the government-owned institution published yesterday assessing the investment potential of the UK’s AD sector, which currently amounts to around 106MW of capacity in operation or under construction, with a further 148MW in the latter stages of planning. The UK’s AD plants process over five million tonnes of food and farm waste each year, generating electricity, biogas, and a nutrient rich fertiliser known as digestate. AD has been hailed as a sustainable way of dealing with food and agricultural waste and according to the industry the technology is capable of meeting 10 per cent of the UK’s gas domestic demand, while contributing up to £3bn to the economy and creating 35,000 jobs. The GIB was set up to invest in green infrastructure and waste technologies have been designated as one of its priority sectors. The new report acknowledges that funding has been an issue for the UK AD sector, with some investors deterred by concerns over feedstock availability, the availability of power off-take agreements, and local markets for digestate. It also warns that the fact that the majority of AD facilities in the UK have been in operation for less than three years means the sector lacks an established and informed investor community. But the report argues that putting robust contracts in place with feedstock suppliers and energy companies will help AD plants reduce their investment risk profile and attract debt finance, not least from the GIB. “For debt investment in the sector, GIB is actively investigating the opportunity to directly participate in up to £50m of financing for AD projects which achieve the specific metrics identified above,” the report said, adding that the GIB will continue to make equity investments through its nominated waste fund managers, Foresight and Greensphere. Adrian Judge, the GIB’s managing director for waste and bioenergy, said AD offers a lot of potential for investors. “AD is rightly at the heart of the Government’s waste policies, and GIB’s waste investment strategy,” he said. “For organic waste, AD is a cost-effective and sustainable waste management option. “Although the UK market is still young and there are challenges for projects in delivering a consistent revenue stream, well operated AD facilities have the potential to achieve attractive commercial rates of return to both equity and debt providers.” In related news, three UK companies were yesterday awarded a share of £1.34m to help encourage bioenergy production from wetland biomass. Natural Synergies, AMW IBERS, and AB systems were among seven companies shortlisted for the scheme, each of which is focused on improving harvesting and biomass energy generation techniques from wetland areas. Supporters of biomass energy have long argued that wetlands could offer a sustainable source of biomass feedstock, as it ca be developed without impacting on productive agricultural land. Taylor Scott International

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