Inma Gonzalvo / 09 February 2016

Small scale biogas deserves more public support

The project has facilitated the promotion of small-scale anaerobic digestion in agro-food companies in 7 European countries (Spain, Sweden, Ireland, Italy, France, Poland and Germany) setting the ground for new investment through meetings with potential AD sites, including sustainability analysis, involvement in technical tours, workshops and trainings, and promoting agreements between the target companies and key stakeholders.

More than 300 European agro-food industries have participated in the programme of one-to-one meetings of BIOGAS3 project and more than 150 sustainability analyses about small-scale anaerobic digesters have been performed thanks to BIOGAS3 partners.

Tuesday February 9th 2016 two EU-wide projects on bioenergy have held a conference on small scale biogas. Both projects, Biogas³ and BioEnergy Farm2 aim at the production of biogas out of waste streams. Biogas³ has a focus on agro-food residues while BioEnergy Farm 2 focusses at on-farm digestion of manure. This joint event included final results of Biogas³ project and a good overview of current status and perspectives of small-scale biogas development in EU countries. General message of the event is that small scale initiatives have all kinds of indirect positive effects besides energy production for which these local initiatives deserve more public support.

Two-sided sword

Waste streams like potato peels, slaughterhouse waste or dairy manure potentially generate a fair share (10 – 25 %) of the energy production in EU member states. This organic material can be digested in small scale, on-site, biogas plants to produce biogas. For organic waste streams digestion reduces the waste stream, while at the same time green energy is produced. The biogas knife cuts both ways!

Methane reduction

Farm based manure digestion also has very positive side-effects to bioenergy production. Animal houses are amongst the largest emitters of the greenhouse gas methane. Manure tends to digest when in storage, leading to large amounts of methane emission. If a farm-scale digester is implemented, the methane is released in a controlled environment and can be used as a sustainable energy source: biogas. In this way the green energy production directly leads to an equal reduction of methane emission.

All-time availability

Biogas from small scale digesters can produce renewable energy 24 hours per day. There is no need for wind or sun: as long as there is fresh material fed to the digester on a regular basis, the energy production goes on. This makes biogas a very reliable renewable energy source. With the small scale plants promoted in these IEE projects, decentral and reliable energy production is realised. For the stability of regional electricity networks and natural gas grids, this biogas technology is very positive.

Self-energy consumption: smart use of resources

Management of energy consumption can lead to a self-energy consumption system for many Agro-food companies. Those models were investigated and promoted in both projects. Agro-food industries which use their waste on-site and produce their own biogas are saving money thanks to saving energy consumption from fossil fuels. Many examples have been found in both projects. However, it has been highlighted that it is necessary to find a suitable location, adjust production to energy needs of the company and find the most suitable technology for the waste to be processed, among other aspects.

A smart use of the energy could be crucial for Agro-food sector in Europe development in the coming years. To promote success cases and facilitate the uptake of more efficient and “cheaper” technological solutions is a challenge for the next years. That could lead to an increase in competitiveness of Agro-food companies in EU countries and, at the same time, to produce in a sustainable way that could be appreciated by the consumer.

Green jobs

Companies located in rural areas could take advantage from an employment point of view. Not only the required national suppliers of the technology but also the local maintenance service and “indirect” jobs related to small scale installations such us digestate spreading activities. These installations could contribute then to an increase in job positions in remote areas with difficulties in fixing the population there due to lack of diversification opportunities.

Public support

Small scale biogas production is still an emerging sector. As a consequence, together with a relatively small installation, production costs per energy unit are high compared to other renewable sources. Therefore, other benefits of decentral biogas production should be recognized and rewarded, such as the methane emission reduction, CO2 emission reduction due to use of renewable source for energy production, the all-time availability and buffering capacity. With support from local authorities, rewarding of the positive side effects, and better financial support, the small scale biogas sector in Europe can get a boost and become really part of the Green Energy Solution the EU needs after the Paris Agreement!

The small scale biogas conference “Sustainable small-scale biogas plants: generating employment and green energy in Europe” is an initiative of the IEE projects Biogas³ and BioEnergy Farm2.

Visit and for more information about these projects.

This conference was co-funded by the Intelligent Energy Europe program of the European Union. The sole responsibility for the content of this publication lies with the authors. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the European Union. Neither the EASME nor the European Commission is responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.

For more information about: – Biogas³ – Agro-food digestion – This conference

Paz Gomez: Website:

For more information about: – BioEnergy Farm2 – Small scale manure digestion

Jan Willem Bijnagte: Website:

BIOGAS3 project. Number: IEE/13/477/SI2.675801


Inma Gonzalvo (114 articles)


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Inma Gonzalvo
Marketing y Comunicación

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