Biogas production is too neglected, say German farmers and industry

Biogas production is too neglected, say German farmers and industry

German bioenergy sector associations and farmers’ associations have criticized the amendment to the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) passed by the Bundestag on Thursday (7 July), saying it does not sufficiently support biogas.

“It is completely incomprehensible that, in the midst of this deep energy crisis, a sustainable household energy source like biogas is being curtailed for the production of electricity, heat and biomethane”said Bernhard Krüsken, general secretary of the German Farmers’ Association (DBV), on Wednesday (July 6).

This will make Germany even more dependent on coal and natural gas in this crisis”he added.

Last April, the German Minister for Energy and Climate, Robert Habeck, presented his plans for the “Easter package”, the objective of which is to develop renewable energies more rapidly in Germany.

The core of this package is an amendment to the Renewable Energy Act, which the Bundestag passed its final reading on Thursday after the Climate Protection and Energy Committee reached an agreement on the issue on Tuesday.

However, the amendment “almost completely ignore” the potential of bioenergy, said the association Hauptstadtburo Bioenergywhich represents various bioenergy industry associations, in a statement.

Biogas to replace Russian imports?

The associations fear in particular that the financing of biogas installations is not guaranteed in the long term. To address this, they demanded a cost-effective follow-up solution for existing subsidized facilities after the current compensation period ends.

“Biogas plants today can be operated profitably due to high energy prices, but they need a guarantee on revenues, because there are continuous investments to be made”explained the director of the Hauptstadtburo BioenergySandra Rostek.

Given the gas shortage looming for next winter, Ms Rostek also called for the removal of legal hurdles for permits, so that existing biomass power plants can increase their electricity production quickly.

It could serve to “reduce Germany’s dependence on Russian gas imports and thereby help Germany become a resilient industrial base”, she said. In view of the difficult situation on the gas market, Germany needs bioenergy “now more than ever”she continued.

In this context, Ms Rostek also underlined that the European Commission had already endorsed the idea that“biogas is an essential element to avoid dependence on Russian gas” in its REPowerEU package presented at the beginning of March, the aim of which is to strengthen the independence of European energy supplies as quickly as possible in the face of the Russian attack in Ukraine.

The plan includes doubling the European target for biomethane production to bring it to 35 billion cubic meters per year by 2030.

Food production vs energy production

The Commission has also called on Member States to use their National Strategic Plans (NSPs) for the implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform to mobilize additional funds for the promotion of biomethane from biomass sources. sustainable origin, such as crop residues.

In its comments on Germany’s draft, the Commission said that to make the agricultural sector more sustainable and crisis-resistant, it is necessary to “increase the sustainable production and use of biogas”.

However, the production of biogas is not unanimous.

While biogas plants are often an important source of additional income for local farmers and can contribute to the local production of electricity and heat, some argue that the production diverts important secondary products from agriculture, such as manure or crop residues,” core business “ of food production.

Moreover, since biogas is not produced from by-products that already exist, but from crops specially intended for energy production, such as corn or wheat, which gives another argument against it. ci: competition for arable land.

This aspect has taken on particular importance with the war in Ukraine and the resulting pressure on the world food supply.

“Biogas is not an alternative to natural gas. Indeed, the cultivation of plants for energy production displaces food production and any additional pressure on natural ecosystems endangers biodiversity.reads a statement from Greenpeace.

Photovoltaic installations on agricultural land

In addition to the biogas subsidy, another aspect of the amendment to the Renewable Energy Law has been criticized by farmers: in order to promote the development of solar energy, the amendment also provides for the development of stand-alone photovoltaic systems on agricultural land.

The German farmers’ association had repeatedly advocated the expansion of solar installations first on roofs rather than on agricultural land, in order to avoid losing arable land.

The association is particularly critical of the fact that, according to the amendment adopted on Thursday, autonomous systems must be built on wider strips than before – up to 500 meters next to highways and railways.

“This will lead to agro-structurally penalizing land fragmentation and promote the loss of highly productive agricultural land”, said Mr. Krüsken. The association advocates instead that wind turbines be built mainly on unproductive land.

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