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SPIN

Germany

European leader in biogas sector

About half of the total biogas produced in the EU is to be registered in Germany (EurObserv`ER Biogas barometer). The share of biogas from the agricultural domain is even essentially higher as most of the EU member states obtain biogas nearly exclusively from dumps and sewage sludge while the biggest share of German biogas, approx. 85%, is produced in agriculture.

German development has been remarkably quick and inextricably related to legal and financial support system that has encouraged existing companies to extend and new companies to enter the biogas market. A real explosion of the market occurred after the Renewable Energy Act was amended - the installed capacity nearly quadrupled between 2004 and 2006.
Biogas plants in Germany - number and electrical capacity
The exceptionally lively performance is down to the implementation of a feed-in tariff that combines a number of premiums - cumulative bonuses. German system differentiates biogas plants according to size, substrate (bonuses for regenerative raw material, liquid manure bonus, bonus for using material obtained in the framework of landscape conservation) and usage of biogas (feeding electricity into grid, CHP). The size of remuneration, but also the design of support system and restrictions are what guides the development and actions of entrepreneurs.

For instance, since an incentive law giving biomethane suppliers priority to the grid came into force in February 2008, Germany has also started feeding biomethane into the natural gas grid. The outcome has been an outstanding growth in biomethane injection. This is another example that fine-tuning of support schemes has been key element in biogas sector development in Germany.

At the same time, the German support scheme for biogas according to the Renewable Energy act is on debate since the feed-in bonus tariff for the use of energy crops led to a considerable extension of maize cultivation. Energy maize is competing with maize for animal feed, which led to significantly increasing land lease prices in areas with biogas production and high livestock density. It is thus expected that the energy crop bonus will be cut considerably or even totally abolished with the upcoming amendment of the Renewable Energy Act in 2012. It is also planned to further stimulate the use of substrates such as organic residues from food industry, biowaste from households or landscape conservation material.

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Expertise in agricultural solutions

Due to long experience and well-developed biogas market, a wide knowledge on biogas-related technologies is available in Germany. Germany has established role as a technology provider, especially in agricultural solutions for biogas production. Because of continuing importance of the agricultural sector many BSR countries (Poland, Baltic states) are a significant market for biogas technology – but a market that is only developing.

Technological competence of German biogas sector is at its strongest in small and middle-sized farm methanisation units – anaerobic digestion biogas plants. Preferably continuous processes are applied in agricultural plants, with the substrate being fed into the fermenter a few times a day, the methane bacteria used are mostly mesophilic (approx. 30°C to 40°C), but also other processes and solutions are found.

As German development state of (agricultural) biogas sector is more advanced than in other BSR countries, also the technological issues differ. For example, safety issues are important as solely the methane escaping from the fermentation residue in unfavourable cases may result in a negative climate balance. Methane emissions from biogas plants occur if unburned biogas escapes into atmosphere (diffusion through foils, leaks, high-pressure cut-off valves, engines failures etc.) and if fermentation residue not completely decomposed leaves the closed system of the biogas plant (fermentation residue tank not gas-tight covered). Other safety issues include flammability of biogas and emissions of hydrogen sulphide.

Stakeholders and institutions

Best practices

Several German biogas highlights entered in SPIN Database (http://spin-project.eu/index.php?node_id=SPIN+Innovation+Database;55&lang_id=1), for example turnkey biogas plants by BioConstruct GmbH.