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Renewable energy trade body urges UK government to support biomass heat industry

The UK’s largest renewable energy trade association, the Renewable Energy Association (REA), has urged the UK government to support the biomass heat industry.

The trade body recently responded to a consultation on reforms to the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) subsidy, which closed earlier this week.

In a statement, the REA said that if changes to the RHI policy were made then “the collapse of the biomass heat industry would result in job losses and a significantly slowed rate of decarbonisation”.

In the November Spending Review Chancellor George Osborne announced confirmation of funding for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) will continue through to at least 2020.

However, the government also made proposals to change the system. This includes plans to move all non-domestic biomass boilers to a single tariff, the removal or limiting of support for biogas that uses crop-based feedstock, and the introduction of ‘tariff guarantees' for heat pumps and large combined heat and power biomass sites.

The response to the consultation on reforming the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), submitted earlier this week by the Renewable Energy Association (which covers power, transport and heat), outlines the UK’s already poor progress towards meeting its 2020 renewable energy targets and the benefits that supporting the wood heat industry bring, including to British forests which are more actively managed as a result.

International examples of decarbonising the heat sector were also highlighted in the response. According to the REA, biomass represents 89% of the renewable heat in Europe.

Frank Aaskov, policy analyst at the Renewable Energy Association (REA), said: “We need a range of technologies to decarbonise a range of properties.

“Rural locations for example with no access to a gas network cannot be left behind. Biomass boilers are low-cost, provide significant carbon savings compared to oil boilers, and support the growth of healthy British forests.”

In a statement, the REA added: “For many properties, biomass boilers are a pragmatic low-carbon alternative. They are used in diverse locations, such as at the National Trust property at Ickworth (Suffolk). It is distressing that the government’s proposals would shutter this growing industry and would have us rely instead on largely untested  technologies.”