UK government announces biomass sustainability criteria

The biomass industry must prove it is using sustainable materials from April 2015 otherwise it will lose financial support. This was the message given by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) as it announced its new criteria for sustainable biomass production.

According to DECC, the UK's biomass sector – which it estimates is worth over £1 billion (€1.17 billion) in new investment and currently accounts for 38% of the nation's renewable energy supply – will no longer benefit from financial support if it fails to demonstrate that its fuel is sustainable according to the new criteria.

The energy department says these new changes will slash greenhouse gas emissions by 70% compared to fossil fuel alternatives.

The new criteria for sustainable forest management are based on a range of issues such as:
• Sustainable harvesting rates
• Biodiversity protection
• Land use rights and indigenous populations.

The new rules are aimed at those energy producers generating 1MW or more from solid biomass or biogas. From April 2015 they will be required to demonstrate that they are meeting the criteria in order to claim support under the Renewables Obligation. This would cover around 98% of all biomass power generation in the UK.

Those who do not comply with the new requirements could see their financial incentives withheld.

Greg Barker, Minister of State for energy and climate change, says: 'The Coalition is committed to delivering clean, affordable and secure energy for consumers. This includes an important role for biomass power as part of the UK's energy mix. The new criteria will provide the necessary investor certainty and, crucially, ensure that the biomass is delivered in a transparent and sustainable way.'

It is hoped the new criteria will drive forward the development of biomass technologies, such as coal-to-biomass conversions which are one of the quickest and most cost-effective ways to help decarbonise the UK's electricity supply.

DECC said in statement that no further unilateral changes will be made to the sustainability criteria before April 2017 in order to provide certainty to the industry's investors and developers.

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