Following a study that was recently released from the University of Texas at Austin, which said livestock manure could be used to satisfy up to 3 per cent of U.S. electricity demand, I decided to zero in on the potential for Canada, and specifically Ontario. I learned that the potential was even higher in Ontario, but also learned — sadly — that the province produces less than half a megawatt from livestock manure using gas from anaerobic digester systems. This, despite the existence of a program that for the past two years has offered a premium of 11 cents per kilowatt-hour for biogas-based power production. Apparently it’s not enough.
I’ve got a feature on this issue in today’s Toronto Star if you’d like to explore more fully.
Compare that to Germany, where more than 3,700 anaerobic digester systems produce about 800 megawatts, and the situation in Ontario stinks, to say the least. Some say by 2015 Germany will have 20,000 digesters producing 4,000 megawatts. So what’s the holdup in Ontario? Red tape. Insufficient incentives. Lack of awareness or appreciation of the benefits of digester technology, which not only creates renewable power but also kills pathogens in manure that can foul up water systems. It also replaces methane emissions with carbon emissions — a 21-to1 reduction in the carbon-trading world.
Now, the rules will be under review later this year, but the Ontario Power Authority is making no guarantee that incentives will increase. That said, there’s a general sense that the red tape needs to come down. Whether Ontario — or Canada, or the United States for that matter — can realize the full potential of animal poop in power production, we’ll likely have to wait a few years to see.