Food processors generate £32M in renewable electricity

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Renewable energy

Food and drink manufacturers are re-evaluating green solutions in the light of rising energy costs, said SmartestEnergy
Food and drink manufacturers are re-evaluating green solutions in the light of rising energy costs, said SmartestEnergy
Rising energy costs are driving food and drink manufacturers towards green solutions, with a 53% jump in the number of on-site renewable electricity projects in the sector last year, SmartestEnergy has claimed.

The company, which claims to be the largest purchaser of energy generated by the UK independent sector, said the industry generated more than £32M worth of renewable power in 2012. Anaerobic digestion facilities represented the bulk of that figure, it added.

Iain Robertson, generation sales manager for the firm, told that the 38 large-scale renewable energy projects listed for the food manufacturing sector last year included 14 solar photovoltaic initiatives.

That was the category with the largest number of schemes, followed by biomass boiler projects and wind turbines. These three categories accounted for more than a third of the UK’s on-site generation programmes in 2012, said Robertson.

‘Most popular was AD’

However, he continued: “By generating capacity, the most popular was AD ​[anaerobic digestion facilities], for which the food manufacturing industry can use byproducts and which generated 67% of renewable energy capacity.”

AD plants use microorganisms to break down biodegradable waste in the absence of oxygen to produce gas, which can then be used as a means of power.

Robertson said calculations were based on schemes producing 50kW or more of electricity. The 38 projects had a combined capacity of 135MW of electricity last year, more than that of eco-friendly forms of electricity in any other industry, SmartestEnergy claimed.

The schemes include wind turbines run at Mackie’s of Scotland factories in Aberdeenshire, and Perthshire; a biomass facility at McCain Foods’ site in Peterborough; and a solar photovoltaic system at Liverpool-based drinks manufacturer Halewood International.

“For businesses faced with steep rises in energy costs, investing in their own renewable energy projects can generate significant savings and help them remain competitive,”​ said Robertson.

Daunting barrier

But the rising cost of such programmes themselves represented an increasingly daunting barrier for food processors seeking to generate more of the power used in their operations through renewable means, he added.

Securing funding for green energy installations was also proving tricky, especially in a tough economy, which was driving banks to tighten their purse strings. However, he stressed that the sector was still making strong progress in the area.

SmartestEnergy was drawing on figures from Ofgem’s Feed In Tariff Register and Renewables and CHP (Combined Heat and Power) Register for the year to December 31, 2012, for its comments.

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