UK maize stats and the implications

I have been taking a further look at the maize statistics published by DEFRA in December 2015 – see here for the full dataset.

Maize date UK 2010-13
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.

Maize top 10 counties
Devon, Somerset and Dorset are the top three counties in England when it comes to maize cultivation

Maize - largest increase
Dorset, Shropshire and Somerset saw the biggest rises in maize cultivation between 2010 and 2013

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.

Biofuels: Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, what support her Department plans to provide to ensure that proposed biomass combined heat and power schemes are not affected by changes to the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme.
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, what criteria her Department plans to use to determine which biomass combined heat and power schemes receive support under the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme.
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, when her Department plans to publish the terms of reference for its Renewable Heat Incentive consultation.
Here is the answer from Andrea Leadsom MP who is the Minister of State for Energy at the Department of Energy and Climate Change

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……

6 thoughts on “UK maize stats and the implications

  1. Hi Adrian, new guidance on sustainability criteria and reporting for AD plants was published just before Christmas. https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/sites/default/files/docs/ro_sustainability_criteria_guidance_esw.pdf but this only applies to AD plants >1MW. As far as I can see, most AD plants fall below this threshold. Those below the threshold merely have to report against the sustainability criteria, not meet them. Whether they were caught by this change would also depend on whether an AD plant was claiming via the Renewables Obligation mechanism, or via the Renewable Heat Incentive.

    • Thanks Miles – but Neil Parish’s questions were tabled on the 16th Jan this year and appear to get getting at something else – the nature of the questions make me feel the ‘new’ AD/CHP lobby are rattled?

  2. It appears to be to do with the Autumn Spending Review announcement of £700M cuts to the Renewable Heat Incentive, at which time DECC announced it was reviewing the RHI to improve “value for money”. Parish was asking specifically about Biomass CHP plants. These produce electricity and waste heat which can be used for domestic or industrial purposes (eg warming greenhouses). These are different from AD biogas plants, where the biogas Maize goes.

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