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Biomass Magazine: Northern Ireland sets support levels for biomass power



The Northern Ireland government has announced new support levels for biomass and solar under the Northern Ireland Renewables Obligation, effective April 1. Under the updated regulations, new large-scale biomass combined-heat-and-power (CHP) plants are eligible to receive a higher support level for six months longer than previously announced.

“The additional six month eligibility period for new large scale biomass CHP stations, which retains support at the current [Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROC)] level until [Sept. 30, 2015], provides certainty for investors in a technology which offers great potential in Northern Ireland,” said Energy Minister Arlene Foster.

The government opened a consultation on the regulatory changes in Oct. 2012. The Department of Energy and Climate Change split the biomass consultation into two parts; one that set sustainability proposals designed to provide certainty for investors, and one that detailed proposals to ensure support for biomass under the Renewables Obligation delivered value in terms of money and affordability.

As a result of the consultation, a 400 MW non-legislative cap was set on new dedicated biomass power plants that can expect to be supported at 1.5 ROCs per MWh. However, that trigger point only applies to England and Wales. According information published by the Northern Ireland Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, that cap does not apply to any dedicated Northern Ireland biomass power plants. The documentation states that “new dedicated biomass (and biomass CHP) power plants will be excluded from the scope of the cap and notification register to be set up and managed by Ofgem.”

The consultation response published by the Northern Ireland governmentalso specifies that support for standard cofiring of biomass and cofiring of regular bioliquids will be reduced to 0.3 ROCs per MWh through 2015, while standard cofiring with CHP and cofiring of regular bioliquids with CHP will be reduced to 0.8 ROCs per MWh. The energy crop uplift for standard cofiring has also been removed.

The new regulations also include a six month “grace period,” or extension, of the current banding level for CHP, through Sept. 30, 2015 for eligible stations seeking accreditation under the Northern Ireland Renewables Obligation. Projects commissioned and accredited under the NIRO through that date will be entitled to claims support under the CHP band for the appropriate proportion of their output.