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National Grid Says Half Britain's Homes Could be Heated by Renewable Gas

National Grid Up to half the country's domestic gas heating could be met by turning waste into biogas, according to a new report from National Grid.

Biogas could give the UK a new reliable source of green energy as the North Sea gas reserves run down.

The report looks at how all the biodegradable waste streams such as sewage, food and wood could be turned into biogas and injected into the gas distribution system.

At the moment there is a small quantity of production of biogas in the UK coming from landfill and sewage plants, but it is being used to generate electricity. However, National Grid says these valuable waste resources could be used be used more efficiently. Turning them into biomethane could meet half the country's domestic gas needs and help achieve renewable energy targets for 2020.

Biogas is produced by two main processes: anaerobic digestion which turns wet waste such as sewage and animal manure into biomethane, and gasification which is better suited to drier wastes and energy crops. Biomethane is already being produced and injected into gas grids in Europe.

"Biogas has tremendous potential for delivering large scale renewable heat for the UK but it will require Government commitment to a comprehensive waste policy and the right commercial incentives," said Janine Freeman, head of National Grid's Sustainable Gas Group.

"Biogas has benefits on so many fronts. It is renewable and could help to meet the target of 15% of all our energy coming from renewable sources by 2020. It provides a solution for what to do with our waste with the decline in landfill capacity and it would help the UK with a secure supply of gas as North Sea sources run down," she said.

In cost terms, it is estimated that biogas would be a similar price to other renewable energy sources. However, because the country already has an extensive gas grid, there would be little need for disruptive infrastructure development or any major inconvenience to consumers in their homes or in their streets.

The report concludes that there are no insurmountable technical difficulties to delivering biogas. The main hurdle will be about getting the right commercial incentives in place so waste can be turned into biomethane for gas grid injection rather than electricity. This needs to be allied with a comprehensive waste management policy.

National Grid, who commissioned Ernst and Young to provide the analysis, has now handed the report to Ed Miliband, Minister for Energy and Climate Change.

Posted 02/02/09

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