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Increasing Social Awarness and ACceptance of biogas and biomethane

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ISAAC (Increasing Social Awarness and ACceptance of biogas and biomethane)

Reporting period: 2017-07-01 to 2018-06-30

Although Italy is the second European biogas producer after Germany, a great potential for biogas production and market expansion still endures, especially in central and southern regions. Non-technological barriers prevent a more widespread diffusion, in fact they are still critical.
ISAAC is a project funded by the European Horizon 2020 program whose main purpose was to remove non-technological barriers, such as low public acceptance, insufficient coordination for biogas facilities diffusion, regulatory inadequacies to support biogas/biomethane market penetration in Italy and to make plants implementation easier within the national context. In details the identified barriers were divided into SOCIAL (lack of information among citizens, farmers and breeders; NIMBY syndrome; fragmentation among different stakeholders), ECONOMICS (lack of specific and effective funding schemes; low profitability of small biogas plants and uncertainty on incentives) and LEGISLATIVE (lack of clear national legislation on biomethane and digestate; fragmentation of regulatory frameworks on permissions and installation procedures)

ISAAC's approach to overcome non-technical barriers:

• Organization of participatory processes in two pilot territories (interested in the realization of biogas plants) to build a common decision-making paradigm and prevent social conflicts. Plant visits have been organized as well.
• Organization of information campaigns and public meetings in seven Italian regions with experts to disseminate the correct information on the biogas production process and its environmental and economic benefits.
• Organization of educational tour, activity for high school students using an anaerobic digestion prototype and the release of a comic adventure on environmental topics.
• Use of a calculation tool to evaluate the availability of residual biomass and define the potential for biogas / biomethane production to reduce fragmentation between biomass and biomethane producers and highlight the benefit of collaboration to reach adequate plant size to maximize economic benefits
• Organization of training courses for municipal technicians to provide insights into technological, regulatory and authorization issues.
• Proposals of regulatory improvements on participatory processes, on by-products / co-products / waste exploitation and on biomethane use.
• Socio-economic studies on the development, impacts and acceptability of biogas and biomethane plants in specific territories.

The overall objectives of the project were:

O1. increasing of knowledge of the social, environmental and economic benefits associated with the production of biogas and biomethane.
O2. increasing of the public acceptance of biogas production with AD plants.
O3. reduction of the fragmentation between the farmers and the other stakeholders potentially involved in the construction of AD facilities.
O4. proposals to improve existing Italian regulations on biogas/biomethane.
O5. diffusion of tailored financing schemes to fund AD plants.
O6. improvement of local public administrations governance of bioenergy projects
"The project activities have led to:

• A detailed state of the art of the technology and of the working plants in Italy that include an in deep analysis of the biomass used, of the biogas potential, technological aspects of biogas/biomethane production and gas grid injection, an evaluation of social, economic and environmental impacts related to biogas production and a list of oppositions to the plant realization. Part of the information was collected with surveys and telephone interviews to plant owners.
• Local events organized in 7 Italian Regions (Lazio Campania Puglia Marche Sardinia Calabria and Sicily to discuss with people and raise the awareness about biogas/biomethane.
• A specific calculation tool available on the website for a fast and preliminary assessment of anaerobic digestion plants.
• Workshops with stakeholders were organized to show to farmers and breeders the potential of agricultural sub-products and the benefits of aggregation to rise plant dimension and increase benefits.
• A Guidelines for well-done biogas/biomethane plants to get stakeholders fully aware about the advantages of the biogas/biometane diffusion and to support the diffusion of the best practices.
• Two public Participatory Processes. Representatives of the Municipality and the enterprise participated to the PP together with citizens; a jury of citizens, selected to represent the whole citizenship, produced a list of requests and advices for the plant. The first PP was held in Puglia (Andria) on the realization of a biomethane plant using OFMSW; the second one was held in Sardinia (Arborea) on the realization of a liquefied biomethane plant using cattle manure.
• Three rounds of surveys; a total of about 4.000 surveys were collected to assess the awareness and acceptance level in the PP areas and to evaluate the effectiveness over time of the PP and awareness events.
• The ""Educational Tour"" with the anaerobic digestion prototype that involved more than 850 students in 7 Italian Regions.
• An Interactive Comic Adventure, ""Buck Bradley comic adventure"", was developed: the app is available for android and IOS. It was downloaded by more than 7.000 users and received a rate of 4,8/5 on Google Play.
• Training courses organized for local technicians and administrators in Marche and Puglia.

The project and its results were presented in international and national conferences and several meetings.
The main achievements of the project are:

• the realization of an inventory of biomass and biomethane plants dividing them by dimension, type, alimentation, work progress, type of problem faced and local opposition. Results are enclosed in deliverable 2.2
• the organization and realization of two successful participatory process in Andria and Arborea to involve citizens in the decision process for the realization of anaerobic digestion plants
• monitoring , through surveys, of the social acceptance of biogas/biomethane plants and how it changes along the learning process triggered by the participatory activities.
• a proposal for a more effective policy at national and regional level by producing clear and concrete proposals for law improvements on the use of digestate, on Participatory Process and on the gas grid injection and by promoting the harmonization of local authorization procedures
• a tool for the self-assessment of biogas/biomethane plants that consider the possibility to use several type of residual biomasses from farms or food industries and provide information on economic results and environmental effects.

The project contributed to:

• The increase of the biogas share in the final energy consumption by reducing NIMBY conflicts and fragmentation among stakeholders, as non-technical barriers to the installation of new anaerobic digestion plant;
• The spread of balanced information on the biogas production process and related environmental and economic benefits among the stakeholders potentially involved in plants construction;
• The assessment of socio-economic and environmental impacts through surveys, cost/benefit analysis and other methodologies.

For further information on the project achievement see table 1
Educational tour with the anaerobic digestion prototype
Project image
Table 1
Percentage of biogas plants that have suffered problems of public acceptance divided by type of feed