'An awful story for the environment': Farmers are burning fuel to produce electricity for less

Farmers burn fuel to combat soaring energy prices

Farmers are resorting to burning fuel in generators instead of buying electricity from the grid due to dramatic cost increases, with implications for the environment.

Farmers nationwide are burning fuel in generators for power because it’s cheaper than buying electricity which has increased by up to 400 per cent. 

These extreme measures to cut costs will have serious environmental consequences as burning fuel produces more emissions than electricity from the grid, which can come from renewable sources as well as gas.

Duncan Janaway, an organic egg and potato producer, reported that his electricity costs have increased threefold, from £190,000 a year to £700,000. The potato storage and drying operation are particularly energy intensive as they have to bring down the temperature of potatoes in warm soil to eight degrees to store correctly.

“We’ve done the sums, and we’ve bought two generators and we’re going to run it (the farm) on red diesel,” said Janaway.

Burning fuel to generate electricity has become economically viable because of soaring energy costs and the fact farmers have access to red diesel, which at £1.50 a litre, is cheaper than regular diesel due to lower taxes for agricultural use.

“It will be 50 per cent less (than buying electricity from the grid),” Janaway said.

“It’s an awful story for the environment and it doesn’t sit well with us, but we’ve got to do what we need to do to survive,” said Janaway who contrasts by saying he’s set to plant 35,000 trees on his farm in the winter.

Keith Thompson, a pig breeder in Northamptonshire planning to trial the same measure, reported that their energy costs would increase by 380 per cent if he uses energy from the grid.

“It’s cheaper for us to power the operation using fuel in our generator than buying electricity from the grid,” said Thompson. “Our energy costs are normally £5000 a month, whereas now it will be £19,000.”

“We’re facing increases of £168,000 a year and we’re losing that much because of Brexit as well,” reported Thompson who exports rare breed pigs to Europe and beyond.

“To lose this again would be a nightmare.”

Sustainability manager at organic veg box Riverford, Zac Goodall said: “Using the government emissions factors, the grid electricity is 15 per cent better on carbon than burning diesel to generate your own.”

Janaway made a public post on Instagram explaining the difficult decision and it has gone viral with over 20,000 views. As a result, he said that many farmers are following his lead.

“I have spoken to over 20 farmers who have all ordered generators,” said Janaway.

“It just shows how unrealistic and overinflated the price of energy is in this country.

“Something needs to be done to regulate them,” added Janaway.

Read more about how the energy crisis is affecting food businesses here.


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  1. Presumably, the price increase for energy is because energy companies are protecting their margins. The government should say it will subsidise margins, at least to keep companies afloat, paid for by general taxation, which has some inbuilt compensation for low incomes. I don’t see how cutting taxes will help the energy problem at all.

    1. I agree. Gov support should surely be more targeted rather than cutting taxes for those who are not in desperate need, especially when the tax purse is feeling the squeeze. Are general tax cuts what we need right now? I’d argue that puts proportionally more back into the hands of those who are least affected.

      I don’t know where to even start with businesses. I think most people just want to see them back working rather than galavanting on holidays and messing about with a 3 month leadership election that only a tiny proportion of the population can actually vote for.


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