Stroud based Ecotricity invests £11M in new Reading facility to make gas from grass

Ecotricity gass from grass

Stroud based Ecotricity, the world’s first green energy company, has begun construction of its latest renewable energy innovation – a green gas mill, which will make gas from grass.

It’s first-of-a-kind gas mill is now being built near Reading in Berkshire. Once fully operational in early 2023, it will provide all the gas needs for 4,000 local homes every year, the company said.

Traditional methods of making green gas involve use of food waste or energy crops – both have sustainability issues and problems with a lack of scale. Grass is a breakthrough alternative, says Ecotricity.

Ecotricity’s green gas mill will be fed by herbal leys – a mix of grass and herbs, sown and grown on farmland next to the plant.

Green gas mills do not require agricultural land and do not compete with food production. Costing £11 million to build, Ecotricity’s first green gas mill will create 30 jobs and directly contribute £3 million into the rural economy.

Ecotricity has also released a new white paper on the potential for Green Gas in Britain. Authored by independent academics from Imperial College London Consultants, the report reveals that there is enough grassland in Britain, not involved in food production, to provide gas for all homes. A national program to achieve this would create 160k jobs in the rural economy and contribute £15 billion annually and the UK could make all the gas it needs to home and business use – if meat production was reduced by 10 per cent and land was used to grow grass. Such a reduction would be well under the historical trend and targets set by government advisors to enable transition to net zero

Green gas made this way can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 90 per cent when compared to the current use of North Sea gas and synthetic fertilisers, says the report, adding that green gas mills produce a natural fertiliser as a by-product.

The report also highlights the significant shortcomings of the government’s national air source heat pump roll-out – it’s alternative plan for heating homes without carbon emissions. Such a plan would cost six times as much as a green gas roll out – partly due to the need to triple renewable electricity generation, and significantly upgrade the grid to deliver it. The plan would also require the scrapping of millions of gas devices – boilers and cookers, as well as the UK gas grid. Currently, it costs £8,000 per home to install a heat pump – which also adds more than 40% to the overall energy bill of each household that uses one instead of gas. The report also flags that heat pumps will not work for 20% of British homes at all – while a further 20% of homes will need significant upgrades.

Dale VinceDale Vince, Founder of Ecotricity, said: “This report could not be more timely – we’re deep into an energy security crisis that has exacerbated an existing energy price crisis – while we urgently need to deal with the role of energy in the climate crisis anyway. The answer is not to throw away our national gas grid and the tens of millions of appliances that use it, imposing vast costs on the public – the answer is simply to change the gas we put into the grid. And carry on as normal.

“Green gas is cheaper, faster and far less wasteful than a switch to heat pumps. And it will work for every home – no exceptions. It will give us a more balanced and diverse outcome in terms of energy supply and form an essential part of the smart grid we need – with gas and electricity grids supporting each other, sharing the energy load of the country.”