Soaring gas prices have highlighted the need to decarbonise and decentralise the energy system. The UK relies on natural gas for half its electricity generation and according to the government, 60% of natural gas was imported in 2020, which is why global market prices are a real concern for the domestic market.
Increasing renewable energy production in the UK is key to encouraging domestic control and mitigating a future energy crisis.
Renewables not only provide a number of opportunities for those within the rural economy to diversify their income, but they will also be crucial to reducing harmful emissions and reaching net-zero by 2050. Farmers will be pivotal to this transition by using their land to host renewables, switching to alternative fuels and electrified vehicles, and considering options such as growing bioenergy crops.
This has been the foundation of the Low Carbon Agriculture Show for 11 years and the event, which will take place on the 8th and 9th of March 2022 at the National Agriculture and Exhibition Centre (NAEC), Stoneleigh, will outline opportunities for farmers, update on current policy and provide guidance on ways to optimise existing systems as well as discussing the additional support needed in the sector.
Frank Gordon, REA director of policy, says more government action is needed. “The present gas crisis has brought into sharp focus the dangers of being exposed to risks such as low electricity supplies and volatile global energy prices – storage for the energy produced by renewables would act as a buffer against this in the future. Support for longer duration energy storage to balance supply and demand is also critical,” he said.
“However, government funding is not the only requirement, we also need consistency and substance when it comes to legislation and market regulations. This could be achieved via a long-term heat decarbonisation strategy, more frequent Contracts for Difference (CfD) auctions for large power projects with an auction every year on a rolling 3-year horizon, and increasing renewable transport fuel production and EV uptake.”
Additionally, Mr Gordon says that there is increasing recognition of the value of using naturally produced biofertilisers and soil management to lock up carbon.
Lisa Howkins, sales and marketing director at NFU Energy, a supporter of the show, says there are many benefits for farmers looking at renewable opportunities: “The need for farmers to develop an energy strategy that will shield them from the effects of such a volatile market has never been so important.
“Farmers who are buying electricity from the grid and have land or a rooftop available can look at solar panels where payback periods are in the region of six to eight years, or much less if electricity prices stay high. Wind turbines are still a good option if you can get planning permission. Heat pumps offer the opportunity to replace gas consumption with net-zero-friendly green electricity. Batteries are slowly becoming more affordable, and hydrogen will offer possibilities in the future.
“The need to reduce energy waste and therefore reducing spending is vital,” added Ms Howkins.
The Low Carbon Agriculture Show aims to cut through the noise and give practical guidance on sustainable land use, renewable energy generation and emission control. It will cover specific topics such as government policy, carbon storage, soil health, natural capital, net zero, renewable energy, low emission vehicles and agri-tech.
For more information go to www.lowcarbonagricultureshow.co.uk.