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DECC: New biomass sustainability criteria to provide certainty for investors to 2027


Press release: From April 2015 biomass industry must show fuel is sustainable or lose financial support

Biomass electricity will produce over 70% greenhouse gas savings compared to fossil fuel alternatives, under changes made by the government to ensure the sustainability of wood-fuel used to create energy.

From April 2015, the biomass industry – which is worth over £1bn in new investment and supports over 3,000 jobs – will be required to demonstrate their fuel is sustainable or lose financial support.

Greg Barker, Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change, said:

“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.”

The tough new criteria for sustainable forest management are based on a range of issues such as:

  • sustainable harvesting rates,
  • biodiversity protection and
  • land use rights for indigenous populations.

Organisations who do not comply with the new requirements could see financial support withheld.

All generators of 1 Megawatt (MW) capacity or more using solid biomass or biogas feedstock 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.

We are also today introducing a new requirement for generators of 1MW capacity and above to provide an independent sustainability audit with their annual sustainability report.

Today’s announcement will help bring forward transitional 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.

To provide the certainty that investors and developers need there will be no further unilateral changes to the sustainability criteria before April 2027.

Notes for Editors:

  1. By 2020 biomass generators of 1MW and above will have to meet a 200 kg CO2eq per MWh annual target (72% saving compared to the EU fossil fuel electricity average). This reduces further to a 180 kg CO2eq per MWh from 2025 (75% saving compared to the EU fossil fuel electricity average). A threshold of 1MW and above covers around 98% of biomass power generation.
  2. The other 2% (those with a capacity between 50kW and 1MW) will be required to report against the criteria, but not to comply with it. Microgeneration (under 50kW) are not included in the scope.
  3. Biomass is expected to make a significant contribution to delivering the UK’s 2020 renewable energy target. Around 38% of our renewable electricity comes from bioenergy.
  4. Sustainable forest management criteria will be based on the Government’s UK Timber Procurement Policy Principles
  5. Mandatory sustainability criteria have already been introduced to the RO for bioliquids as required by the EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED).
  6. We have introduced a cap of 400MW on the total new-build dedicated biomass capacity (excludes biomass with CHP and coal to biomass conversions) that can expect grandfathered support under the RO. We are using a notification process to allocate places within the cap. This is now open for applications for priority projects (that reached financial close by 20 August). Other projects will be able to apply from 11 September onwards.