UK Government Sets Biomass Power Rules

Taylor Scott International News

Electricity from biomass is expected to save 70% of greenhouse gas emissions 22/08/2013 UK government sets biomass power rules Financial support only available if sustainable Helen Tunnicliffe THE UK government has set new sustainability criteria for biomass to ensure that it contributes effectively to the country’s emissions reduction targets. Electricity from biomass is expected to save 70% of greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil fuels, but concerns have been raised that some of the wood chips and pellets used in biomass power stations is no better than coal and in some cases worse if it has been harvested in an unsustainable way, from a badly-managed plantation or shipped from thousands of miles away. The new standards announced by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) are designed to address these concerns and apply to all companies generating 1 MW or more of energy from solid biomass or biogas which are claiming financial support under the Renewables Obligation (RO). The RO means that all generating companies must source a set proportion of their electricity from renewable energy, but receive a premium for doing so. From April 2015 onwards, electricity generating companies could face losing these financial incentives if they cannot prove that the biomass fuel for their plants meets the tough new standards. The sustainability criteria look at the way the source forest is managed, including ensuring that harvesting rates are sustainable, that biodiversity is protected and that indigenous populations retain their land use rights. DECC has also pledged not to make any more changes to the sustainability criteria before April 2027. Greg Barker, the minister of state for energy and climate change says that biomass is an important 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,” he adds. The news has been welcomed by the Renewable Energy Authority (REA), which represents UK companies in the renewable energy industry. “These sustainability criteria ensure that the UK can reap the benefits of biomass, safe in the knowledge that it is making a real dent in our carbon emissions and that ecologically sensitive land is being protected. Biomass is a great way to bridge the looming capacity gap because it has all the same benefits as fossil fuels, such as reliability and flexibility of supply, but without the carbon impacts,” says REA CEO Nina Skorupska. The REA, however, warned that all biomass generation must be supported by the government. Earlier this month, RWE closed its Tilbury power station in the UK, which it had been converting from coal to biomass, when the government withdrew subsidies under the Contracts for Difference scheme which invests in low carbon technologies. Only combined heat and power (CHP) projects are now eligible for subsidies under this scheme, but REA points out that many otherwise suitable sites have no users for the heat generated. Taylor Scott International

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