Biogas production is strongly driven by the farmers’ incentive to diversify their income sources

Lithuania, seeking to achieve the goals of the Green Deal, turns to resource-saving technologies, such as non-arable farming, the use of renewable energy sources, and the development of short food supply chains.

“The envisaged measures are not intended to introduce new prohibitions and restrictions, but to encourage the change of farming principles, practices and methods to be more environmentally friendly and healthier for humans,” says Vice Minister of the Environment Gintarė Krušnienė.

The expected changes in the livestock sector are aimed not to reduce livestock numbers, but to use farms more efficiently. Livestock manure will become organic fertilizer and raw material for biogas production, with demand in transport, buildings and industry growing in the coming years. The Climate Change Agenda calls for more manure and slurry to be properly managed by 2030, but at the same time to ensure that a large proportion of pigs, cattle manure and slurry are used for biogas production.

Lithuania is about to promote biogas production now, and Germany already has this experience as a part of implementing the German energy transition strategy. German Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) passed in 2000 is widely regarded as successful legislation for promoting bioenergy development. More than 1000 biogas plants were constructed in Central Germany between 2000 and 2014.

The latest issue of Energy, Sustainability and Society magazine publishes the study, systematically investigating this period and environmental, social and economic factors, as well as various EEG amendments which impacted biogas production. Research also shows what the environmental consequences of biogas production development have been.

The income diversification effect resulting from biogas production was the most important factor in a farmer’s decision to adopt biogas production. However, EEG III and IV, which tried to promote small-scale plants, were unable to reduce the average size of the plants constructed in these two amendment periods.

From a landscape perspective, there was a striking increase in the cultivation of silage maize in Central Germany from 2000 to 2014. Silage maize was intensively cultivated in regions with a high installed biogas plant capacity. Since the first EEG amendment, permanent grassland area slightly increased while arable land area declined in Central Germany.

Researchers suggest that the adoption of biogas production in Central Germany was strongly driven by economic incentives for the farmers. In addition to increasing the subsidy, future EEG amendments should find new measures to encourage the adoption of small-scale biogas plants.

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