The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has announced a market study on advanced treatment of organic waste. This may impact on landowners and farmers, but could also create new opportunities to participate in renewable energy schemes.

The OFT study will focus on whether the Government, individuals and businesses could, or should, do more to use advanced technologies to produce energy from organic waste (which comes from sewage, food scraps from household rubbish and waste products from the food and farming industries), while reducing pollution.

The study will also examine whether there are appropriate incentives in place for the use of techniques such as anaerobic digestion (AD), which produces clean energy by fermenting organic waste.

It is interesting to note that, in a welcome example of joined up Government thinking, the study is supported by the Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat). Ofwat's primary role will be to contribute its expertise in the sewerage sector, but the study may also have consequences for the Water Framework Directive, under which all of our river, lake, ground and coastal waters are required to reach good ecological and chemical status by 2015. This, in turn, could affect cross-compliance requirements under the Single Payment Scheme, including those conditions which deal with groundwater and sewage sludge.

So in the longer term this study, taken together with the results of other ongoing reviews, could have far reaching consequences across the water, waste and energy sectors, not to mention the opportunities it could create for those seeking to participate in renewable energy projects. For now, it gives landowners and farmers the chance to lobby the Government on planning, funding, installation and other issues which can affect AD projects. Anyone can email comments or submissions to organicwaste@oft.gsi.gov.uk