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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Green gas mills ‘the antidote to fracking’

Heating for 97% of British households could be achieved using gas made from grass according to plans set out in a new report by Ecotricity.

Gas from grass has ‘astounding’ benefits ©iStock
Gas from grass has 'astounding' benefits ©iStock

Their Green Gas: The opportunity for Britain report explains how the construction of green grass mills could power houses and offices across the UK through a process of anaerobic digestion, which involves using grass as a fuel to produce biomethane.

Described as ‘the antidote to fracking’ it is estimated that by 2035 the construction of 5,000 mills would provide 75,000 jobs and pump £7.5bn in to the rural economy.

Ecotricity founder, Dale Vince, said: “As north sea reserves run out, the big question is where we’re going to get our gas from next.

“The government thinks fracking is the answer, but this new report shows that we have a better option.

“Recently, it’s become possible to make green gas and put it into the grid, in the same way we’ve been doing with green electricity for the last two decades.

“The current way of doing that is through energy crops and food waste – but both have their drawbacks.

“Through our research, we’ve found that using grass is a better alternative, and has none of the drawbacks of energy crops, food waste or fracking – in fact, it has no drawbacks at all.”

Last month Ecotricity received planning permission to build a prototype green gas mill in Hampshire, the first of its kind in Britain, which will inject an estimated £60m into the local economy, create new jobs, and produce enough clean gas to heat over 4,000 homes every year.

The report argues that green gas is a fuel source that will never run out, is virtually carbon neutral and reduces the need for fossil fuels or to frack the countryside.

“Our first green gas mill has just been given the go-ahead, and we hope to build it soon – though that does depend on whether government energy policy will support this simple, benign and abundant energy source,” Vince continued.

“As our report shows, the benefits of Britain making its gas this way are astounding.

“We now have a more than viable alternative to fracking, which people have been fighting tooth and nail up and down the country to prevent.

“It’s not too late, because fracking hasn’t started yet. We need a proper review of where Britain gets its gas from – we can either frack the countryside or we can grow the grass. It’s that simple.”

According to the report, 23% of the UK’s electricity was generated through renewable energy in 2015, with carbon emissions falling by 27% over the last ten years.

However the government are predicting a shortfall of around 3.5% in relation to targets set for energy consumption coming from renewables by 2020.

Liberal democrat energy & climate change spokesperson, Lynne Featherstone, said: “If the government would only throw its weight behind green gas, it would go a long way to delivering on our renewable heating targets and secure our energy for the future.”

In addition the report claims that creating gas from grass will support food production by improving soils, create wildlife habitats, and provide support for farmers who are set to lose EU subsidies following Brexit.