UK government reduces GHG threshold for new biomass CHP projects

By Erin Voegele | September 06, 2018

The U.K. government has issued its response to a consultation on its Contracts for Difference scheme, announcing its decision to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) threshold for new biomass projects. The U.K. Renewable Energy Association said the government’s action will severely limit new biomass combined-heat-and-power (CHP) projects in the future.

The government’s consultation on the CfD scheme opened in December 2017 and closed in March 2018. The U.K. Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy issued its response to a portion of the consultation in June. On Aug. 30, the BEIS issued the second part of its response, which includes its decisions related to advanced conversion technologies, CHP, GHG criteria for solid and gaseous biomass, and other issues. Also on Aug. 30, the government launched a new consultation to gather input on several issues, including the way that its decisions on the December 2017 consultation will be implemented in the CfD scheme.

Within its Aug. 30 response document, the BEIS said it believes an efficiency threshold is necessary to support the deployment of suitable advanced conversion technologies. The government said it intends to introduce a requirement to meet a 60 percent conversion efficiency of energy in the biogenic content of the feedstock into energy in the biogenic content for the syngas or synliquid.

Regarding GHG criteria for solid and gaseous biomass, the U.K. government said it will set a new lower GHG threshold value to apply for projects that are offered a contract from the next CfD allocation round. The new threshold for biomass CHP is to be set at 29 kilograms of CO2 equivalent per MWh. According to the U.K. REA, this is significantly lower than the 180 kilograms of CO2 equivalent that will apply from 2025-2030 for existing biomass generators under the Renewables Obligation. The U.K. REA also explained that the new threshold represents a requirement of 95.9 percent carbon saving compared to the EU fossil power average.

“With this decision the government has undermined its own energy policies by attacking biomass yet again. Just when we need low-cost, flexible power to back up technologies like wind and solar, this decision risks it all,” said Benedict McAleenan, head of Biomass U.K., part of the REA. “It will make it harder and more expensive to remove coal from the U.K. power grid.

“Developing sustainable, efficient renewable CHP plants will be much more difficult, despite the joined-up value they provide across heat and power sectors,” McAleenan continued. “With no coherent strategy on decarbonizing heat, the government is undermining a key option. At the same time, just when BEIS and others seem to be waking up to the possibility of negative carbon emissions from Bioenergy with CCUS, they are simultaneously shutting off this market.

“In summary, the government is shooting itself in the foot on three key policies: energy bills, heat decarbonization and carbon capture,” McAleenan said. “A triple whammy.”

The full consultation response can be found here. Additional information on the new consultation, which closes Oct. 10, is available on the BEIS website