I have been taking a further look at the maize statistics published by DEFRA in December 2015 – see here for the full dataset.
In the three years up to 2013 the amount of maize grown in England increased by just over 36,000 ha – a 24% increase since 2010. This data only goes up to 2013 and it is anecdotally clear to me that since 2013 growth has continued. I would suspect that as of today around 200,000 hectares of land is being cultivated for maize in the UK.
Much of the maize grown in England is used as winter feed for cattle but I suspect (although the DEFRA data doesn’t specify) that the majority of the growth is being used to fuel anaerobic digester biogas plants.
That is a lot of land no longer growing food and a lot more land likely to produce rapid run-off during heavy rain.
The growth of maize cultivation seems to inextricably linked to the development and creation of new biogas plants. The industry is heavily subsidised via the tax payer from ‘Feed in Tariff’ (FIT) and ‘Rewewable Heat Incentive’ (RHI) payments which is why we are seeing so much growth in maize production. It would appear that the Government might be aware of this now and are proposing to undertake a review of the RHI scheme.
I’m not sure of the details or the economics of all of this but it would appear to have rattled the proponents of Combined Heat and Power plants as these written parliamentary questions from the Devon MP Neil Parish (who also chair of the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee) perhaps shows.
To be eligible for Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) support, all biomass combined heat and power (CHP) must be certified by the Combined Heat and Power Quality Assurance (CHPQA) scheme, and must demonstrate that they have a valid CHPQA certificate. Any installation claiming the CHP Renewable Obligation Certificate uplift will not be eligible for receiving support under the RHI scheme.
We intend to reform the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) to improve value for money and reduce costs; improve cost control and budget management; and ensure the scheme focuses more on our long-term needs, while contributing to both our carbon and renewable energy targets. We plan to consult on the changes shortly. Therefore, I am unable to make specific commitments as to the future shape of the scheme at this point.
This exchange relates to CHP plants which burn wood and not AD plants using maize but nevertheless the RHI scheme is to be reviewed and this might make it less attractive to build new AD plants……