GOVERNMENT RESISTANCE TO BIOGAS REMAINS A MYSTERY


Randy Mott
Vice President, Polish Biogas Association
                    http://www.reo.pl/powody-oporu-rzadu-przed-biogazem-pozostaja-tajemnica  [PL ver]

     There is hardly anything unkind ever said about biogas by the Polish Government. It remains a major part of the national plan for 2020 renewable energy goals. It helps solve many of the environmental issues surrounding organic waste and has been highlighted by the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Environment when the new auction law was introduced in November. Biogas has a flat-line, stable electrical output and can actually be built to match the 24-hour electricity demand curve.
    But somehow none of the biogas industry’s concerns about the new law ever get addressed. We are ignored almost entirely. This treatment is puzzling to say the least, since the Polish Government expects biogas developers to invest billions of PLN in new biogas plants. 
    The fixation of the Government remains the small farm-based biogas plant which has many merits, but is hardly the only biogas approach worth promoting. The facts show that most existing Polish biogas plants and those in planning are over 1 MW in size and do not fit into the niche that the Ministry of Agriculture wants for everyone in the sector.  This is because of the hard economics of biogas that dictate the best financial results in the 1-2 MW size (a size precluded from being built at all by the proposed law which will place these plants into competition with wind farms and co-firing solely on a cost per MWhr basis).  This larger size is also essential to support the additional equipment and procedures for safe environmental and health operations with many wastes.
   Due to the fact that Poland cannot afford to provide the very high support payments that Germany used to develop its farm biogas sector (30-40 Euro cents/kWhr), it is imperative that a more reasonable approach be used to get the biogas output to somewhere near the Government’s target. That requires that Poland allow all of the substrates which the European Commission Joint Research Center determined last year were technically appropriate for biogas, especially the organic waste substrates (which can improve the economics without higher government support). The biogas industry has been making this argument for over two years and no one is listening.  This includes household and restaurant food wastes, green cuttings, enzymes and additives up to 2%, as well as incidental amounts of sewage sludge (which can be safely treated in thermophilic biogas plants as done in other countries). If the Ministry of Agriculture does not want these wastes in farm-based plants, then the law should add a “co-digestion plant” category regulated by the Ministry of Environment to get the job done.  The substrates need to be defined in the law itself and they need to be as broad as technically feasible.

   Instead of a dialogue on these subjects, there is no discussion of the issues at all.  These issues are all accepted by the biogas sector, local government organizations, NGOs and agricultural associations. The only “hold-out” is the national government (for reasons that remain unarticulated). Time is running out and the Polish Biogas Association has submitted a detailed set of amendments to the language of the November draft as well as a fully-referenced justification for the changes. Unless someone in government picks up the issues, the biogas sector will never achieve anything like the government’s targets and will remain acutely under-developed in Poland for years to come. In years to come, when many local residents get higher bills for sewage sludge disposal and organic waste management there will be a readily-identified culprit.  These issues will be featured in the next local elections.    

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