New BRC report – institutional conditions for biogas

BRC research area 6 (FO6) aims to investigate and develop an overview of biogas policies and policy instruments in Sweden and abroad, and to contribute to a better understanding of the effects of policy measures and frameworks on the development of biogas solutions. The work in FO6 have now resulted in a report about the institutional conditions for biogas.

The production and use of biogas has increased strongly on a global level over the last decades. Many studies estimate the untapped potential to be considerably larger than the current production. A continued expansion will however require great efforts by several actors, and such a mobilization usually requires favorable institutional conditions. Well-designed policies and policy instruments can create good conditions for the biogas sector to grow, while a weak and vague policy framework can impede the development.

Thanks to the broad impact that biogas has on society, there are policies influencing biogas solutions in different ways within many different areas and on many different levels. In addition, policies and policy instruments are more or less variable over time. This makes the policy landscape of biogas rather complex and difficult to overview. The fact that biogas policies exist within many different areas means that biogas solutions risk being considered “somebody else’s problem” and that the government of biogas becomes indistinct and ineffective. Coordinating efforts within biogas policy and creating favorable conditions is thus not an easy task. Moreover, there is no uniform way of categorizing and defining biogas policies, where they exist and in what way they influence biogas solutions. In the first part of this report, a model describing the dimensions and characteristics of biogas solutions is presented. The proposed model consists of five dimensions: type of policy, administrative area of the policy, administrative level, part of the value chain that is influenced, and temporal change and continuity. The model expresses a previously untold story of how policies influence biogas solutions, which can contribute to an increased understanding of how biogas policies work and should be designed to promote the development of biogas solutions.

Sweden is far ahead when it comes to use of biogas, but can have reason to learn from other countries when it comes to policies to support the domestic production of biogas. The second part of this report gives a summary of the biogas development and biogas policies in Sweden and eight other countries: Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Canada, Norway, Czech Republic and Germany. Biogas solutions have developed in different ways in different countries, as a results of variations in terms of conditions, needs, political development and tradition. In comparison with the selected countries, Sweden’s biogas production per capita is not very high, and the development has not indicated any noticeable increase in recent years.

Sweden was early in producing upgraded biogas for vehicles, but the previously steady rise in production has now stagnated. Meanwhile, both the biogas production and the interest in green vehicle gas is increasing in other parts of the world. A significant part of the biogas used in Sweden is produced in Denmark, which means that the benefits of biogas production in terms of waste management, nutrient recycling and employment end up in our neighboring country. Many of the compared countries have shown great increase in biogas production in relatively short time, even though in some cases it has stagnated following policy changes. The comparison also makes it clear that Sweden employs unusually short time horizons for support systems—seldom more than one or a few years—while they in other countries can extend up to 20 years. A learning from this can be that more long-term planning of the institutional conditions for biogas is required to achieve a significant increase of biogas production.

Read the report here (in Swedish) BRC report 2021-4 FO6