Coalition government proposal backs AD but lacks details on water bill

May 13, 2010
Joint Conservative/Liberal Democrat government touts anaerobic digestion in proposal but concerns remain in water sector over regulation to allow the co-digestion of sewage sludge and other feedstocks...
LONDON, England, May 13, 2010 -- A new Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government in England has backed anaerobic digestion (AD) to promote a "huge increase" in energy from waste but experts question why details of a "comprehensive water bill" weren't included.

In a coalition agreement published this week, the seven-page document included a paragraph on the environment that states that the coalition will promote the uptake of anaerobic digestion as a way of generating renewable energy from waste, a move supported by the former Labour government.

Another agreement between the coalition sets out to establish a green investment bank as well as the maintenance of banded ROCs [Renewable Obligation Certificates".

The document did not include proposals of a "virtual water grid" which Nick Herbert, former shadow environment secretary for the Conservative Party backed ahead of the general election (see Water & Wastewater International (WWi) story).

The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) said it has lobbied for many of the policies outlined by the new government in its manifesto, Fitting the Bill.

The Institution welcomed the promise of a green investment bank, feed in tariffs, a smart grid and the roll out of smart meters but said the coalition deal didn't mention the development of a "comprehensive water bill".

Alastair Chisholm, policy manager at CIWEM, supported the expansion of AD but said clear regulation must remain in place to co-digest sewage sludge and other feedstocks.

He told WWi: "The Defra AD Task Group work last year set many wheels in motion and it’s important that the recommendations of the implementation plan are supported, taken forward and built upon. Co-digestion is a challenge given the conflicting regulatory regimes governing AD of waste and sewage sludge. In the Implementation plan, there is a proposal to identify the regulatory requirements to enable widespread co-digestion of sewage sludge with other feedstocks."

He added: "The water industry’s perspective is broadly that the top priority is to ensure there is a clear and robust environmental and economic regulatory framework that facilitates co-digestion of sewage sludge with other feedstocks and enables the appropriate use of the resulting digestate."

Following the release of the document the new government outlined its first coalition cabinet, with Liberal Democrat Chris Huhne appointed as secretary of state for energy and climate change and MP Caroline Spelman named secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs.

Spelman said: “I will work across government and beyond to respond to the challenges of increasing food production, adapting to climate change, protecting our natural environment and ensuring we live sustainably."

Nick Reeves, executive director of CIWEM, said the importance of the new government adopting a strong stance on environmental issues cannot be "overstated".

He said: "Strong political leadership is required to face issues such as the overexploitation of resources, species extinction, population growth and climate change."

Reeves added: “The environment cannot continue to be sidelined in the manner it was during the parties’ campaigns. Whilst the economy and banking crisis are clearly important issues requiring immediate actions, they are dwarfed in their potential impacts by what climate change could bring about in the future.

"The new government is in a unique position: it can set the UK onto a trajectory of an adaptable, low-carbon society; or it can go down in history as the government that failed to act in time. The public will look to this government for strong leadership; it is not the time for procrastination.”


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