BiogasAction – New developments in the Netherlands

During the first 1 year and a half of the BiogasAction project the consulting firm CCS has been working on different tasks in order to promote and fulfill the targets in BiogasAction and the different challengers in the Netherlands.

BiogasAction – New developments in the Netherlands

n the Netherlands, there are 110 co-digestion biogas installations and 5 mono-manure digesters (A total of 100 MW). There are about 80 co-digesters in operation, with a capacity of about 50 MW of electrical power, leading to 0,32 TWh a year, while 30 installations are not running, because of the crisis in agricultural biogas. Upgrading of biogas takes place in four agricultural biogas installations. The total amount of upgraded biogas (bio methane) is 90 million Nm3 a year, originating mainly from industrial biogas installations and waste management companies. In the new funding schema of 2014, about 0,27 TWh of electricity a year has been approved to combined heat and power with co-digestion and 100 million Nm3 of upgraded biogas (bio methane) a year for biogas upgrading. In the past about 40 to 50% of the funding was not used, facing difficulties in the realisation of the plant. One of the main aims of this project will thus be to overcome these difficulties and the use the available funding 100%.

Developments in the Netherlands

The installations are shown in the map. The dots are biogas installations based on manure with or without cop-product. About 3% of the total amount of manure is digested in the Netherlands (CBS, 2015). Traditionally, large scale co-digesters with 50% maize and 50% manure in the input where dominant in the biogas sector of the Netherlands. Biogas from these plants was used in a CHP engine, generating electricity for the power grid. Heat for the installation was only used for heating the digester, remaining heat was flared. However, rising maize and other co-substrate prices and ever declining electricity prices led to financial problems for these installations. Although the government started a repair programme, allowing for an extra subsidy bonus on the effective use of heat, a lot of biogas installation that did not implement the effective use of heat came in financial troubles that led to bankruptcy.

Since then, the trend of new biogas installations is towards mono-manure digestion and the use of alternative technologies to allow this. An example is the use of poultry manure. Normally, using a large share is not possible in a digester, due to a high nitrogen load, but newly innovative techniques make it possible to strip the ammonia from the digester to control the nitrogen load. Other trend is the biogas upgrading installation for the production and grid injection of biomethane. This way, all energy in the biogas is used, generating more revenues. Also, small scale digestion, with only the use of manure from the own farm is in rise. The small scale digesters do not have high costs of cosubstrates as the use the onfarm manure, have lower investments, easier permits and generate additional positive environmental effects due the reduced stable emissions. Since 2017, the largest Dutch milking farmers cooperative, Royal Friesland Campina is actively supporting small scale digesters with their Jumpstart initiative. Their target is to build 200 small scale digesters by 2020. Farmers joining this initiative can operate an installation based on financial lease from a select group of suppliers. Revenues from biogas installation in the Netherlands are based on renewable energy production.

The government supports renewable energy initiative with the SDE+ subsidy, which is a subsidy for the financial gap between the market price for fossil based electricity heat and gas. However, the total amount of subsidy available each year is capped and registration is based on tendering, the cheapest technologies are first in line, the higher subsidy tariffs necessary for small scale biogas production where not reached. As biogas is, compared to solar-PV and woody biomass, relatively expensive, it is difficult to get enough subsidy for biogas installations. Therefore, after a lot of lobby work from, amongst other, CCS, in 2017 small scale biogas project (<400kW) got a reserved tender of 150 M€, especially for small scale biogas.

Looking at the granted exploitation subsidies for biogas installations in the last 2 years, a drop is noticed in projects since 2013, after a standstill in 2012. In 2015, co-burning of wood pellets in coal-fired power plants made it almost impossible for biogas project the get subsidies granted, but the sector revived in 2016. For 2017 and 2018 it is difficult the estimate what will happen. The budget for renewable energy subsidies is growing, however the government is lowering the height of the subsidies gradually. CCS is in consultation with the government, as the decline in subsidies is at a faster pace than the technological learning in the biogas sector, making is difficult to build solid business cases. This means that additional sources of income, subsidies and financing will become more and more important for the biogas sector.

BiogasAction project in the Netherlands

During the first period of BiogasAction the consulting firm CCS has been working on different tasks in order to promote and fulfill the targets in BiogasAction and the different challengers in the Netherlands.

The following initiatives has been established:

  • Institutional building
    • BEON. BEON is the regional cluster for Bio Energy. There is an annual meeting, with excursions and plenary discussions. In 2016 the consulting firm organized the excursion for the morning session to a newly built biogas plant. This excursion was visited by >60 persons and was very good valuated in the ranking. This excursion was organized on behalf of the Biogas Action project. During the excursion CCS also promoted the project and how people and organizations can profit from the project.
    • GGNL. GGNL is for the biggest part of its resources depending on national and regional governments. For 2016 the funding was dramatically decreased, and for 2017 and further its existence is questioned. Within the Biogas Action program CCS will try to take over responsibility for some of the meetings, so these can be maintained. After a very long and though period the company got the permission of the board of GGNL to work together and organize some meetings together. The first meeting under BA-flag will be organized in November or December of 2017.
    • BBO. The BBO is the official biogas branch organization in the Netherlands. During 2016 the head of the board was replaced and a new strategy was developed. CCS tried really hard to get on board with them in the development of a training course, as this organization doesn’t have a course program themselves. So far this is with limited success. The biogas sector is still very small in the Netherlands, where most plants are owned by industrial companies and the larger agricultural plants are working together and owned by a limited number of companies. So, the market for an independent training course is very small. Those companies that want some personnel to be trained seek their courses in Germany.
  • Strengthening the biogas sector framework.
    • Training. Together with another training organization, CCS organized two training rounds for regional policy makers and law enforcers. Both sessions had comparable line-up, with two days of training with some weeks in between the days. The days were partly theoretical, with in the afternoon excursion/workshops to existing biogas plants.
    • Excursion. In the provincial parliament of Gelderland was invited to a biogas plant in response to their motion to ban all biomass activities in their region. During the excursion several stakeholders presented their activities and views about the biogas field. This resulted in a drastic change of the motion, and no further restrictions on digestion. The excursions mentioned under 3.2 was also open for public authorities. During the walk around through the biogas plant, the civil servants of municipalities were informed about the installation, technique, etc.
    • SDE+. In June 2016 CCS provided feedback on the SDE+ proposal for 2017. (SDE+ is the Dutch subsidy system for renewable energy.) The company made suggestions for improvements for farm-scale digestion, large scale co-digestion, biomethane production and gasification. The written feedback was oral explained by one of their experts. Most of the feedback was incorporated in the final subsidies. In 2017 the firm gave feedback via GGNL, as the system changes weren’t that big this time. For 2018 CCS will prepare feedback on the proposed FiT`s, but that will be reported further in the next period reporting.
    • Overijssel & Gelderland. The provinces of Overijssel and Gelderland are two provinces very suitable for energy from biomass, and especially biogas. The BEON cluster is the overarching lobby group for these two regions. As a member of BEON and with CCS´s office located in Overijssel, CCS are very active in these two provinces. In Gelderland the company participate in the ‘biomass table’, a high level political consultative body. Here proposals are made for the distribution of subsidies and other political instruments that can stimulate biogas projects. With this table the consulting firm have to compete with other tables, covering other themes like ‘energy saving in the industry, ‘energy in buildings’ and ‘solar’.
  • Optimizing business models and financing of biogas projects
    • For manure (co-)digestion the business model has been energy driven for decades. In comparison to i.e. waste digestion, where volume reduction is the driver in the business case. Although with the increasing prices to get rid of manure, this waste treatment business case seems to become more important for manure digestion in the Netherlands. CCS distinguish two variation of these business cases:
      • 1. Farm based digestion, where part of the heat is used to dry manure or evaporate digestate, to shrink the manure volume, or where heat is used to strip nitrogen out of the digestate to reduce the N-level and produce artificial fertilizer.
      • 2. Large scale digestion, where the energy is used to dry the thick fraction, and other water treatment techniques are used to filter the slurry to releasable water.
    • In both cases, the energy is primarily valued in the internal process, and excess energy is sold as a bonus on the business case. As for renewable energy the subsidy systems lay a basis for the business case, here the key driver is the gate-fee, that is completely open market. In that way these cases can be very vulnerable for market chances.
      As part of the BiogasAction project the consulting firm support examples of both types.
  • Assistance to specific high quality biogas project development
    • At this moment CCS have only been involved in a training for civil servants and biogas operators dealing with all legal aspect on operating a digester. The consulting firm have had two trainings of two days.
    • For the next intervention period CCS will finalize the training material and decide if the company will do this alone or together with a strategic partner. The next step is to organize the training sessions, which are scheduled for the end of 2017 and the first half of 2018 dealing about the technical details.
  • Optimization of biogas production
    • For the same entrepreneur CCS assisted with Biogas Goor, a plant that`s about to be built before the end of 2017. Here the consulting firm assisted in the search and selection for a manufacturer of biogas upgrading technology.
    • Totally different is the assistance of Energy corporation Wijenwoude, a village in the north of Netherlands. This village wants to become energy neutral, and sees a role for biogas in that. CCS discussed with them the pre-feasibility study and informed them about other comparable projects and gave some tips & tricks about what is important for a feasible business case and what support instrument are available.
    • Next to these CCS worked together with several other projects. For example Back, who wants to digest about 30.000 tons of manure and deliver the biogas to a nearby attraction park. At this time company will help with the set-up of the business plan. Another example can be Köning, a farmer that already had a permit for a small scale digester, but got struck then. The consulting company wrote him a business plan, took care of the exploitation subsidy and will further assist him with the financing and realization of this project.
  • Replication
    • CCS has participated in a replication activity in France in order to promote biogas. This has been in cooperation with RAAE from France.

Further information

CCS is a small / medium sized private consulting firm, working on sustainable energy solutions. Besides industry and utilities CCS does a lot of work in agricultural biogas. For more than 15 years now the company has been involved in different types of biogas plants. CCS does (pre-) feasibilities studies; business plan preparation; project planning & – development; process optimizations. Hence from the very initial idea up to optimizing of a running plant and assisting farmers or companies at all stages. The company does its consulting work as an independent company enabling them to look for the best solution for the client at all circumstances.

  • Contact:
  • Website: here