Rethinking Biogas

5 questions for Dr Stefan Rauh Managing Director & COO of the BIOGAS e.V. trade association! In our interview, which is well worth reading, you can expect insights into the latest developments in the biogas industry, the potential of flexible biogas plants, which political framework conditions are necessary for the expansion of biogas plants and how we can rethink the biogas industry in order to move towards a green energy future.

Dr. Stefan Rauh studierte Agrarwissenschaften an der TU München. Schwerpunkte seines Studiums waren Pflanzenbau sowie ökonomische Analysen im Bereich Erneuerbarer Energien. Anschließend promovierte er zum Thema „Konkurrenz um Biomasse – Ableitung der Vorzüglichkeit der Landnutzung zur Erzeugung von Nahrungsmitteln bzw. Energiebiomasse“. Ende 2009 wechselte er direkt nach Abschluss der Promotion zum Fachverband Biogas e.V. Dort leitet er seitdem das Referat Landwirtschaft und ist zudem seit Juni 2013 Geschäftsführer.

1 Dear Dr Rauh, what is the current status quo in the biogas sector compared to the last 10 years?

Around 10 years ago, the biogas sector hit rock bottom. With the EEG 2014, subsidies were massively reduced and the construction of new plants was limited to a few small-scale slurry plants. Politicians clearly stated at the time that they had no use for biogas. Since then, a slightly positive trend has emerged. Since EEG 2017, there has been a connection option for the period after the first 20 years. In the biomethane sector, framework conditions have been created in both the fuel and heating sectors that incentivise new concepts. However, we are still a long way from a boom phase. There is a lack of broad political support for this.

 

2. Biogas plants, especially flexible biogas plants, are repeatedly presented as the ideal supplement to the volatile generation of wind power and photovoltaic plants. They are said to be able to take over a very large proportion of the required residual generation. How great is the potential of the biogas sector and how do we get it onto the market?

If biogas is converted into electricity, this must be done flexibly. This is what politicians are calling for and, in our view, is the key to sustainable plants. The first key points of the power plant strategy stated that Germany needs secure capacities, regardless of how much wind and PV are installed. The task of stabilisation is to be taken on by so-called hydrogen-ready power plants. In the first stage, 10 GW will be put out to tender. The biogas sector can also provide this dimension by 2030. If the framework fits, 12 GW could be provided by 2030 and even 24 GW by 2040. To achieve this, the tender volume must first be increased to this dimension and the flexible surcharge adjusted to the current cost structure. This is cheaper, faster and more climate-friendly than building fossil-fuelled gas-fired power plants first.

 

3. Do the plant operators realise the value of their flexibility for the energy transition? What is the overall level of appreciation for the performance of biogas plants?

Since the end of 2021 - i.e. even before the war in Ukraine - the electricity exchanges have been sending price signals, meaning that a flexible operating style enables additional revenue. Even after the high price phase due to the war, the daily fluctuations are clearly noticeable. Since the start of spring with more hours of sunshine, prices have been very low around midday and in some cases rise significantly in the evening. This is where the biogas sector can play to its strengths.

On the other hand, many operators lack appreciation for the reliably generated electricity and the additional heat provided. The perpetual debate surrounding biogas and the lack of commitment on the part of politicians are a disincentive to investment. And these are necessary to keep the plants up to the state of the art.

 

4. are the political framework conditions sufficient for the rapid expansion of the biogas sector? Or, what else should be done?

As already indicated at the beginning, the EEG, which covers more than 90 % of German plants, is not a basis for expanding the biogas sector. The tendering volume and flex surcharge must be adjusted here so that the existing stock can develop into flexible storage power plants. Furthermore, a rapid grid connection and faster, simpler authorisation processes. Like all industries, the biogas sector is also hampered by excessive bureaucracy.

This also applies to the biomethane sector, where there is a noticeable increase and numerous grid connection requests are being submitted.

 

5. Thank you very much for taking the time to answer our questions! If you could rethink the biogas industry, what would you change?

The biogas sector developed very well in the 2000s as a result of the EEG, perhaps too quickly in some places. This has led to political countermeasures that have no longer allowed a uniform target picture. Even today, the German government is arguing in the National Biomass Strategy about where exactly biogas can and should be best utilised. The flexible use of biomethane is now the federal government's goal, something that was ruled out in 2014.

Perhaps the industry should have been clearer in the 2010s about how it sees its own future. As an association, we want to make up for this now. We want to work out what a future path for the coming years looks like.

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#10 | Transforming the primary industry

The 10th episode of our podcast promises exciting insights from Prof. Stefan Lechtenböhmer (University of Kassel) on how to drive the transformation towards a climate-neutral primary industry.

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Carina Buchmann | Public Relations
+49.201.22038-164
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ESFORIN SE

+49.201.22038-100
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We are happy to advise you

Carina Buchmann | Public Relations
+49.201.22038-164
carina.buchmann@esforin.com

ESFORIN SE | +49.201.22038-100 | info@esforin.com | Ruhrallee 201 | 45136 Essen

As specific as your need: Our answer

We are specialised in developing solutions customised to your personal requirements. And you can also righty expect this based on the information you receive from us.