Farms facing high energy costs – despite the recent Energy Bill Relief Scheme announced by government – where the price has been fixed for no-domestic energy users at £211 per megawatt hour (mWh) for electricity and £75 per mWh for gas, are being encouraged optimise renewable energy assets as a way of cutting costs.

Experts who will be speaking at Low Carbon Agriculture show, next February, told The Scottish Farmer that smart use of renewable electricity and gas can save farmers money. “By removing the reliance on grid-derived electricity and gas, self-generated energy from renewable resources can provide an opportunity to keep control of a user’s costs of energy and, in the case of solar PV, provide energy at a lower cost than traditional alternatives with a reasonable return on capital investment,” said Jon Swain, technical director at NFU Energy.

“Some sources of renewable energy are effectively free at source once the capital has been paid for. Other sources such as biomass, or anaerobic digestion (AD) require feedstocks that have a cost, however these costs for these can often be less, and are certainly less volatile, than wholesale energy markets,” added Jon.

Jon said energy efficiency was also often overlooked. “It’s a poor relation to renewable energy, however it provides a more immediate means of reducing energy cost and in the long term, can ensure renewable energy installations are better sized.

“Simple turn-down or turn-off measures are highly effective at reducing energy consumption but may not always allow the necessary job to get done, therefore creative solutions for energy waste including re-using heat and other energies that will be needed,” added Jon.

AFarmers are still playing a key part in the transition to clean energy, according to Mark Sommerfeld, head of power and flexibility at the REA, who will also be speaking at Low Carbon Agriculture show. “There are huge opportunities open to the agricultural sector for both taking part in and benefiting from the energy transition.

This ranges from building solar PV or energy storage sites on lower-quality agricultural land, utilising agricultural wastes to produce biogas, or getting involved in the development of innovative biomass feedstocks to produce energy. Agriculture has a fundamental role to play in delivering net zero and one that must be appropriately rewarded,” he said.

Mark believed the government target of decarbonising our power system by 2035 is achievable, but there were significant barriers to be addressed. “A range of national scenarios demonstrate that if the UK was to prioritise the deployment of a decentralised and flexible energy system, making the most of all forms low carbon generation and storage technologies, it would certainly be possible to deliver an affordable, secure, and net zero aligned power system by 2035," he argued.

“However, achieving such a target requires a step change in the government’s approach. significant barriers need to be addressed, especially those concerning grid capacity constraints delaying the connection of clean energy systems,” explained Mark.

* Both will be speaking at Low Carbon Agriculture Show, taking place on February 7 and 8, 2023.

Held in partnership with the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) and the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), the event is free to attend and features conference sessions, including biodiversity, transitioning to regenerative farming systems, niche crops, managing energy use and costs, separate sessions on the decarbonisation of UK heat and power, and maximising returns from existing clean energy assets.

The show also features an exhibition from businesses supporting farmers in the agricultural transition, as well as a test track for low-emission vehicles.