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Beer in bid to help save the planet

Added: Thursday, June 13th 2013

Image courtesy of Jonathan Harford via Flickr (CC)

Report by Aaron Hay

I last talked about Adnams’ approach to their new distribution facility, completed five years ago, now one of the most energy-efficient buildings in the UK. Since then, the company has launched an innovative partnership with Bio Group, called Adnams Bio Energy. Adnams Bio Energy consists of an anaerobic digester plant for biomethane and fertiliser, right next to the distribution centre, capable of breaking down up to 12,000 tonnes of organic waste yearly.

The £3m digester uses brewery and food waste from local restaurants and hotels (including Adnams’ pubs and inns). Reportedly, John Lewis signed up several Waitrose branches to contribute their food waste. Renewable gas is injected back into the national grid. All of Adnams’ brewery and converted lorry fleet gas needs will eventually be met using the energy from the digester, with about 60% of remaining gas injected into the National Grid. This creates a partially closed-loop waste system for the company, whilst contributing to the UK’s energy decarbonisation goals.

As with Adnams’ work on its distribution centre, the business case seems to be paramount. In Chairman Andy Wood’s own words: “I am not a climate campaigner; I am a businessman. Climate change is an unreasonable risk on which we have to take action.”

So, doing some back-of-the-napkin calculations reveals that if Adnams is using 400,000 of the 1m cubic metres of biogas in its operations, this works out to roughly £110,000 per annum, at a price of 2.5p per kWh. These are serious energy costs, and even more so when fed into a business case that accounts for 30-40% price hikes (note that in 2012 alone, industrial users of gas experienced a 7.7% rise). Add in the fact that Adnams will profit from selling the remaining 60% of gas into the grid. This leads me to guess, without seeing the numbers, that the business case points to immediate energy independence, a robust payback, and a decision that makes great sense for long-term viability.

In five years, this plant will reduce Adnams’ carbon footprint by up to 50% -- and remove 120,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalents from the atmosphere by diverting waste from landfill. The decision appreciably improves the company’s cost structure, as other resource-dependent foodstuff businesses are likely to struggle. The Environment Agency and the press have taken note; it would be quite wise for other energy-intensive producers to do the same!

If you have examples of companies like Adnams, do tweet them to @forum4thefuture using the hashtag #makethecase before or during our 11 June network event.

Related links:

  • On 11 June 2013 we held a Network event about this topic: Making the business case for step-change. If you are a Network member, you can explore the insight and information from that event (including slides and participant contact details) by logging into the Members Area.
  • Read Aaron's previous blog on Adnams
  • Read more about Adnams Bio Energy

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