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Farron calls for 'green loans' to help farmers create energy from waste

February 19, 2009 2:25 PM

Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Defra Tim Farron MP has welcomed the news that Defra is to establish a task force to manage the setting up of a biogas network to provide heat and electricity generated from anaerobic digestion; but has called on the Government to front load investment to ensure that plans can be put in place immediately.

The group will aim to deliver a plan which will see excess manure and slurry from farms as well as 12 million tonnes of food waste put through digesters to produce a methane-rich biogas and a residue that can be used as an agricultural fertiliser.

Following last week's speech to the Cumbrian Green Business Forum, Mr Farron has called on Defra to issue "green loans" for farmers considering diversifying into anaerobic digestion. The money would be used to cover the initial expense of purchasing an anaerobic digester and would be paid back over an agreed period of time.

Under Mr Farron's proposal, on-farm waste-including crop residues and manure-would be converted into methane gas to generate electricity, which would then be fed into the National Grid. These farmers would then be paid a feed-in-tariff, part of which would be used to cover the cost of their initial loan.

Commenting Mr Farron said:

"I'm delighted that the Government have finally woken up to the potential of anaerobic digestion, but had they had the foresight to include these provisions into the new regulations for Nitrate Vulnerable Zones then we'd be a lot further down the road than we are now.

"Farmers play an important role as the industry's carbon managers; but at a time when money is so tight it's impractical to expect them to foot all the initial set-up costs to put this proposal into practice.

"Providing farmers with a 'green loan' to help them with the initial start-up costs will encourage more farmers to diversify into anaerobic digestion and will provide them with a valuable source of income at a time when many farmers are struggling to meet their rising input costs.

"Making anaerobic digestion more affordable will help farmers overcome the challenges of managing manure and slurry created by the changes to the NVZ regulations. But if done properly, it could also create a renewable energy source with the potential to produce enough heat and power to run more than two million homes."