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Plant Engineer: Biomass power is major omission from renewable power prices



Dedicated biomass power is the only major omission from the draft strike prices announced at the end of last week (27 June 2013) by the government's DECC (New energy infrastructure investment to fuel recovery) – and the Renewable Energy Association is concerned.

"The omission of dedicated biomass power from today's announcement of draft strike prices is striking," comments REA chief executive Gaynor Hartnell. 

"Given that a cap has been imposed for dedicated biomass under the Renewables Obligation, it is particularly important to get clarity on the government's intentions for this technology under the CfD [contracts for difference] regime," she continues. 

"There are hundreds of megawatts of biomass projects looking to commission under the new support regime and their contribution of clean, baseload electricity will help keep the lights on when the capacity crunch comes." 

Hartnell argues that this is a technology with a long-term role to play. "It helps with the objective of keeping waste wood out of landfill and is a good use for agricultural by-products such as straw and chicken litter," she explains. 

"In the long term, when coupled with carbon capture and storage, this technology could actually be carbon negative... 

"Biomass has been a mainstay of renewable energy policy since the mid-1990s and over the last few months biomass projects have been encouraged to apply for CfDs. It would be inconceivable and nonsensical for government to turn its back on this technology." 

Provisional 2012 renewable energy figures published by DECC on the same day corroborate analysis also published on that day – by the Keep on Track! Project – which finds that the UK has slipped behind on its 2020 renewable energy targets. 

"The UK has the most demanding target of all member states except Malta, and much progress has been made from a low starting point," insists Hartnell. 

"While we appear to have narrowly missed the interim target, prospects for getting on track to meet 15% in 2020 seem remote. The effect of a steep drop in lending decisions taken in recent years will manifest itself – there will inevitably be a hiatus with the closure of the Renewables Obligation and the government seems to have gone lukewarm on renewable heat. 

"The earlier than anticipated publication of strike prices is welcome but more work needs to be done to build investor confidence."