A special taskforce has recommended a series of reforms for the EU in order to accelerate the development of anaerobic digestion (AD) across the bloc.

Last year, in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the gas supply chain shock, the European Commission set a target to ramp up indigenous biomethane production capacity to 35bn cubic metres (bcm) by 2030.

A special biomethane taskforce was launched in September 2022 as part of the Biomethane Industrial Partnership (BIP), an initiative supported by the European Commission to achieve this target. The BIP has six taskforces that focus on different aspects of biomethane development, such as national targets, project financing, biomass sources, cost efficiency, and crossborder co-operation.

The Renewable Gas Forum of Ireland (RGFI) represents Ireland in the BIP and last week, two reports were launched containing the final recommendations by Task Force 2 to the European Commission and member states.

These recommendations are meant to provide guidance on national biomethane strategies. Ireland’s biomethane strategy was due to be published this month but was since delayed.

Task Force 2, composed of biomethane industry experts and stakeholders, has worked closely with the European Commission to provide these recommendations. This week, we bring you the highlights from the two reports.

Progress so far

Total biomethane production in the EU amounted to 31 terawatt hour (TWh) or nearly 3bcm in 2021. This means that an additional capacity of 32bcm must be constructed by the end of 2029 to achieve the 2030 target.

Achieving this target would require approximately €83bn in investments for the development of 5,000 new AD plants, all of which should be operational by the end of 2029.

Recently, the European Biogas Association published an overview of planned investments in the EU biomethane sector, which totalled €15bn. This is a substantial investment that could result in around 5.5bcm of additional production capacity, bringing the total EU production capacity to approximately 8.5bcm. However, this is substantially below the 32bcm needed.

Currently, biomethane production in Europe is primarily concentrated in six countries: Germany (12.8 TWh), Denmark (5.7 TWh), France (4.4 TWh), Italy (2.3 TWh), the Netherlands (2.4 TWh), and Sweden (1.6 TWh). These countries collectively produced 29.2 TWh (equivalent to 2.8 bcm) of biomethane in 2021, accounting for approximately 95% of the European total.

Based on the EBA survey, biomethane plant sizes can be categorised into three main groups, small-scale, medium-scale and large-scale. See Figure 1.


Scaling up to the 35bcm target in 2030 requires not only investments in new production capacity in the six largest markets but also investments in other member states. In some emerging markets, initial steps have been taken.

For example, €1bn in investments in biomethane between now and 2030 have been announced in Spain.

In Poland, initial investments with a value of €0.5bn are being planned. However, Poland is in the process of developing a subsidy scheme targeting 1bcm of biomethane by 2030, which could require about €2.5bn in investments.

In a statement to the Irish Farmers Journal, PJ McCarthy, CEO of RGFI, said: “As Ireland is an emerging biomethane market, it will require clear Government policy and financial support.

“A key finding of the report is that initial production subsidies are most suited to kickstart investments in biomethane capacity or to support investments in innovative production capacities, while demand side actions (such as greenhouse gas intensity targets or biomethane quotas) can replace or complement subsidies to further scale up biomethane investments in maturing markets,” he said.


One significant proposal from the report is to develop a streamline permitting process, ie securing planning permission and licences.

Permitting procedures vary among EU member states, as do the factors influencing the length of the permitting process.

A survey among BIP members active across Europe showed that permitting procedures can take two to three years on average, with outliers of five to seven years.

Considering it then takes about 18 months to build a plant, lengthy permitting procedures pose a serious risk to achieving the biomethane target in just 6.5 years, the report states.

Answers from the questionnaire indicated that the personal relationship with the local authority planning officer or the personal attitude of the officer can play a role in the length and success of the permitting process.

The report states that it seems that sometimes permitting officers are biased against biomethane or may favour some (local) companies over others, a problem not unique to Ireland. The Renewable Energy Directive requires that permitting should be based on objective and quantifiable criteria, the report outlines.

A recommendation from the report is for member states to introduce a zoning approach, with pre-identified geographical areas where biomethane production is prioritised, with sufficient availability of sustainable feedstock and access to gas grid infrastructure. In these areas, permitting is expected to be quicker or even automatic.


Other recommendations include the development of a one-stop-shop for biomethane permitting, appointing a single officer responsible for managing the permitting application and communication with the applicant.

The report states that delays caused by appeals against granted permits could be avoided through a rebuttable presumption that sustainable biomethane projects are of overriding national and public interest, serve the public good, and do not cause significant harm.

This system would particularly benefit projects located in designated approved areas.

Once project documents undergo review, those deemed to serve the paramount national and public interests would receive expedited consideration, the report states.

Small-scale (CAPEX < €5m to €8m):

Projects led by agriculture players with access to feedstock at the farm level, with a capacity of 50-250m3 of biomethane per hour (resulting in an annual production of 4.5GWh to 22GWh).


(CAPEX €7m to €25m):

Feedstock is sourced from several farms or municipal organic waste, with a capacity of 250-1,000m3 of biomethane per hour (annual production of 22 GWh to 90 GWh).

Large-scale (CAPEX > €25m):

Projects with a capacity of >1,000m3 of biomethane per hour (>90 GWh annually) and the ability to source often heterogeneous feedstocks from further away.