Farms facing high energy costs are being encouraged optimise renewable energy assets as a way of cutting costs.

Experts speaking at Low Carbon Agriculture show next February said 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 National Farmers Union (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 require feedstocks that have a cost, however these costs for these can often be less, and are certainly less volatile, than wholesale energy markets.”

Swain said energy efficiency is 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.”

Farmers are still playing a key part in the transition to clean energy, according to Mark Sommerfeld, head of power and flexibility at Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA), also speaking at Low Carbon Agriculture show in February.

“There are huge opportunities open to the agricultural sector for both taking part in and benefiting from the energy transition,” he said.

“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.”

Sommerfield believes the government target of decarbonising power systems by 2035 is achievable, but there are 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.

“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 system.”