It’s a topic that’s received plenty of newspaper column inches of late and with official targets set, climate change won’t be ignored any longer.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has reported that ’the share of agriculture in overall emissions reached a high of 10 per cent in 2015’. The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) is aiming to reach ’net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across the whole of agriculture in England and Wales by 2040.’
So how can the sector reduce its emissions, help the UK achieve its decarbonisation goals, and seize the associated opportunities?
NFU to the fore
The NFU’s ‘Achieving net zero – Farming’s 2040 goal’ report acknowledges that ’emissions from UK farms presently amount to 45.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO₂) equivalent a year.’ This is about ’one tenth of UK GHG emissions… [and] only 10 per cent of this is CO₂. Around 40 per cent is nitrous oxide (N₂O) and 50% is methane (CH₄)’.
The report suggests that improving productive efficiency and land management can help the sector achieve its net zero goal. However, this doesn’t imply less production; instead, the NFU wants farmers to use fewer inputs but in smarter ways, to produce the same quantity of food as currently.
Efficiency measures may include using controlled release fertilisers, changing animal feed additives, choosing livestock that emit less methane and/or improving animal health, and adopting new technologies. The NFU also advocates ’bigger hedgerows, more woodland, and especially more carbon-rich soil’, plus increased land-based renewables and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). This is the process of producing energy from organic matter while capturing and storing the carbon produced.
Energy industry insights
Energy companies can help agriculture achieve its net zero ambitions in a number of ways:
DSR schemes reward businesses for reducing their electricity usage when National Grid faces peak demand. The rewards vary depending on the type, scale and speed of response required by your scheme. The more power you can commit to using (or stop using) when asked, and the quicker you can respond, the higher your payments will be. Yeo Valley, a Haven Power customer, is using the supplier’s tailored reports and analytics to help it implement DSR and reduce costs over each winter.
If you generate your own renewable electricity, you should consider power purchase agreements (PPAs). These energy-buying arrangements allow you to sell your renewable energy through your electricity supplier and protect you from fluctuating energy prices. PPAs also let you offset your import costs (the cost of buying energy) by selling what you produce back to the grid. The addition of battery storage creates even more flexibility, as you’re able to retain any excess power you’ve generated for later use or export to the grid.
Haven Power’s parent company, Drax, is working with a farm in Northamptonshire to trial a battery storage solution that will help the business maximise its PPA revenues. The farm will store any excess electricity generated by its solar panels and sell the power when demand on the grid – and the price – is high.
Smart meter data can help your supplier (and you) to better understand your energy usage. Such insights can then lead to changes in behaviour and operations that mean you pay less. For example, a horticultural company with a smart meter connected to a network of remote sensors may see that ambient temperatures inside its greenhouses are rising. With analogue technology, the thermostat would reach a critically high level before calling on more energy to drive the air conditioning until the room cooled. With digital technology, the company can analyse the temperature data in real-time and predict when it needs to act – earlier than in the non-digital scenario. Through the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT), the firm’s system would automatically open cooling vents that use almost no energy and have negligible running costs.
Smart meters can help you maximise the benefits of DSR by providing consumption data for specific buildings or areas. This lets you identify where and when you’re consuming the most electricity, so you can try to reduce your usage and reap both the cost-saving and revenue-enhancing advantages.
Haven Power supplies renewable power to a regional agricultural buying group, Yeo Valley and many other commercial customers. The business electricity specialist also helps businesses to optimise energy performance and look at generating (and storing) their own power.