Five fundamentals to kick-start your bioenergy project

Tom Anderson

Tom Anderson, EBRI’s Business Development Manager, discusses the fundamental issues you need to address when considering a new bioenergy project.

Bioenergy is one of the fastest growing and most dynamic sectors within the green economy. By the end of the decade the bioenergy sector is forecast to be worth more than £12billion in the UK alone – that’s more than 50 times the size of the UK market for electric vehicles by the same date!

With such a fast moving and technology-driven market it can be difficult for people who are looking at this sector for the first time to get the grips with the key fundamentals of developing a new bioenergy project. Ahead of EBRI’s free master class on ‘finance for bioenergy’ on 27th September, here are EBRI’s ‘Five Fundamentals’ to help you get started in the sector:

1.   Feedstock

In the world of bioenergy, feedstock is ‘king’

Whether you are looking at large-scale combustion or micro-scale anaerobic digestion, all bioenergy processes rely upon a consistent and controlled supply of feedstock. From high-grade wood fuels through to lower quality wastes and residues it is essential that you have a strategy in place to secure a supply of feedstock to keep your plant operating.  For smaller-scale projects local availability and sourcing of feedstock can be a great way to take some of the risk out of your feedstock supply chain, for example, working in partnership with local businesses or farms.

2.   Technology

The right technology, in the right place, at the right time

There are lots of different ways to convert biomass into low carbon energy. Our ancient ancestors were early ‘bioenergy pioneers’ when they first learned to set fire to wood and leaves to generate heat and light; we have come a long way in the last 100,000 years and we now have a plethora of ‘conversion technologies’ such as Pyrolysis, Gasification and Anaerobic Digestion to complement the ‘ancient art’ of combustion! With each technology and process resulting in very different outputs in the form of gases, oils and solid fuels, selecting the appropriate technology for your project is critical.

3.   Off-take

How will you use the energy (and by-products) produced?

Just as there are many different ways to convert biomass into energy, there are also many different ways to use that energy once it has been generated – from lighting, heating and cooling, through to electrical power and transport fuels. With energy prices already high and forecast to continue to rise the ability to satisfy your heat and power demands from your own ‘on-site’ bioenergy plant is increasingly a viable option for many organisations. For larger plants government subsidies and on-going reform of the domestic energy market have made the potential to export surplus energy to the ‘grid’ an attractive option. Securing a robust ‘off-take’ agreement with an energy company or end-user in this fashion is an essential component for any business plan. Speaking of which…

4.   Finance

A robust business case is essential

With feedstock supply, capital investments and operating costs all essential to the successful running of a bioenergy plant, it is important that you consider how you plan to finance your project. Banks, Venture Capital and Private Equity firms are very active in the bioenergy sector but will steer clear of ‘riskier’ projects where unproven technologies or operators are seeking to break into the bioenergy sector. Where new and innovative technologies are concerned funding from government grant schemes and the European Union can provide an alternative to ‘commercial’ finance.

5.   Help from the experts

EBRI is here to help West Midlands organisations

With feedstocks, subsides, technologies and finance to think about it can often appear that bioenergy is a complicated and complex arena. If your business or organisation is located in the West Midlands then you are eligible to receive free support from the experts at the European Bioenergy Research Institute. Whether it is helping you to identify the right technology or crunching the numbers on a business plan, EBRI is here to help you take the next step.

EBRI Finance for Bioenergy Master Class Friday 27th September

If you are interested in finding out more about the opportunities for your organisation to develop its own bioenergy project then come laong to EBRI’s FREE Bioenergy Master Class on Friday, 27th September. This free Master Class will focus on plant development and securing finance with sessions addressing:

  • Securing Finance and Funding
  • Project Development and Feasibility
  • Subsidies and Incentives
  • Risk Management
  • Project Case Studies
  • Innovative new  technologies.