The green path to success

13th January 2014

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  • Pollution & Waste Management



the environmentalist learns about green economy projects supported by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership

Adnams Bio Energy – exporting green gas

Adnams Bio Energy is a partnership between anaerobic digestion (AD) experts Bio Group and Suffolk-based brewery Adnams. It is the first bioenergy plant of its kind in the UK and was built to inject green gas (biomethane) into the national grid.

Bio Group aims to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions through a network of facilities that turn organic waste into renewable energy, while Adnams, based in Southwold, has a long tradition of incorporating sustainability into its business practices and has won numerous awards for its environmental performance. Built and operated by Bio Group, Adnams Bio Energy is an energy park and AD centre that breaks down the brewery’s waste, and local food waste, to generate energy in the form of biogas, which is upgraded to biomethane. The site delivered its first biogas to the grid in October 2010.

AD is a process whereby microbes break down biodegradable materials, producing biogas which can be used to generate electricity and heat. By diverting food waste from landfill where it breaks down and releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas, AD helps to tackle climate change. Once the biogas is upgraded to 97% biomethane, it can then be injected into the grid.

At Adnams Bio Energy, the AD process converts up to 25,000 tonnes of waste into 1.2 million cubic metres of biomethane a year. This generates 9.6 million kWh of energy, enough to run an average family car for nearly nine million miles. The digestate left over from the process is a rich bio-fertiliser that can be put back on the land. The process is completely organic and nothing is wasted.

The Adnams Bio Energy operation will remove 120,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent from landfill every year and will help Adnams to reduce its carbon footprint by up to 50% over five years. In July 2013, the operation also absorbed all the food waste generated from the Latitude music festival in Suffolk. Numerous other local companies have already agreed to have their food waste taken away by Bio Group, including Waitrose stores in Suffolk and Norfolk, and St Felix School in Southwold.

The Adnams Bio Energy initiative is a clear example of how a commercial production operation can be linked to other local resources – in this case waste. “Future developments like this one will be central to sustainable growth,” says Aled Jones, board member of the New Anglia green economy pathfinder (GEP) project. Steve Sharratt, chief executive at Bio Group, believes the creation of the GEP is a game changer for the region. “Norfolk and Suffolk have some of the UK’s most dynamic, innovative and ideas-driven businesses and academics, and the GEP project means we can lead the way in helping to transition the green economy of the UK,” he commented.

Anglian Water – ‘love every drop’

Close to one-third of the land area served by Anglian Water is below sea level, and the Environment Agency has assessed the East of England as being a region of “serious water stress”. Meanwhile, as the population of the region has increased by 20% over the past 20 years, Anglian Water provides the same amount of water as it did in 1990: nearly 1.1 billion litres a day.

The company’s campaign on water efficiency is spearheaded by its “love every drop” initiative. Its strategy for long-term water stewardship involves working with everyone who influences water use in the region, including housing developers, retailers, government, employees and customers. It collaborates with academics and other water companies on how best to protect and share water, and its employee and supplier engagement strategy incorporates the training of more than 250 “love every drop” champions.

Anglian Water is also one of the largest energy users in the East of England because it has to treat and pump huge volumes of water. The “love every drop” goals also include halving its overall greenhouse-gas emissions by 2035 (against 2010 levels). Its “drop CO2” energy action plan, which involves employees finding new ways to cut energy use, has resulted in electricity consumption falling four years running.

Seven of Anglian Water’s sewage treatment sites already run on renewable energy sourced from the gas emitted as a by-product from sewage treatment, with five more sites expected to make the switch by 2015. Another 2015 goal is to halve the embodied carbon in new assets built by the company against a 2010 baseline. To achieve this target, the firm has developed carbon-modelling software to estimate and reduce the carbon in new treatment facilities or upgrades of existing plants.

Trinity Close – measuring embodied carbon

In October 2011, 12 affordable homes, built to Level 6 of the Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH), were completed at Trinity Close in Rackheath, Norfolk, for Wherry Housing Association. The embodied carbon of the properties was recorded in detail during construction, and operational emissions have been analysed since the homes were first occupied, providing a unique insight into the relationship between embodied CO2 and lifecycle emissions.

The New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) says that the Trinity Close study is the only analysis of embodied carbon undertaken for a CSH Level 6 development in the UK. The embodied emissions are higher than the average UK home due to additional materials and technologies, such as insulation and solar panels, which are being installed to minimise operational emissions from heating and lighting.

The Centre for the Built Environment at East Anglia University worked closely with other stakeholders, including Broadland District Council, Wherry Housing Association and Dove Jeffrey Homes, to develop and implement a carbon monitoring programme that would evaluate all emissions associated with Trinity Close.

The outcome of the study shows that, despite an increase in embodied emissions, investment in high levels of fabric efficiency in small housing developments greatly reduces total lifecycle carbon emissions. Embodied emissions for the 12 homes are 595 tonnes of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e) compared with 417 tCO2e for 12 average UK homes. However, estimated operational emissions for a Trinity Close home in the first year are close to zero, while the average UK home produces 48 tCO2e.

To read more about the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership's green pathfinders project click here

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