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UK campaign backs biomass

By Lisa Gibson | August 23, 2011

The U.K. Renewable Energy Association on Aug. 23 launched its Back Biomass campaign, aimed at ensuring suitable levels of government support for biomass power and combined heat and power. The campaign is also focusing on making certain that the government keeps its promise of completing its review of federal renewables support by the end of this year.

“The Back Biomass campaign aims to deliver the clear message to government that it must not let the opportunity to reap the benefits of this flexible and affordable technology slip away as they fix the details and levels of future support for planned projects over the coming months,” according to the REA.

The U.K.’s Department of Energy and Climate Change is currently reviewing support levels for renewable energy sources under its Renewables Obligation framework. The system awards a certain number of Renewables Obligation Certificates to renewable energy-generating facilities, based on technology type. Any changes arrived upon during the review will take effect in 2013. Some in the U.K. biomass industry say the uncertainty of support past 2012 has affected the sector’s ability to attract investors. The campaign calls on the government to create the certainty the industry needs.

Back Biomass is funded by British Sugar, Drax, EON, Future Biogas and RES. Drax is a power giant in the U.K. that has been vocal about its issues with biomass support, as it plans to cofire biomass in its largest power plant, as well as build dedicated biomass plants in the near future.

“We want a balanced energy portfolio and we want biomass to play a central role in this,” said Energy Minister Charles Hendry. “Biomass electricity is both predictable and controllable and I am very interested in the potential for cofiring and conversion. I am confident that the bioenergy industry can deliver our ambition for around 6 gigawatts of biomass electricity by 2020, as set out in our Renewables Roadmap.” The recently released Renewables Roadmap outlines the U.K.’s renewables goals and puts a larger emphasis this time on biomass for heat and power. “The U.K. industry has been at the forefront in ensuring biomass electricity is sustainable and that it delivers real greenhouse gas savings,” Hendry added. “The very clear sustainability criteria we now have in place will mean we know where biomass has come from and how it has been grown.”

The campaign website lays out the benefits of biomass, case studies and information on how to get involved.

“It is highly significant that the government has just increased its ambition for power generation from biomass,” said Gaynor Hartnell, REA executive director. “There are a number of large projects in development that would produce very cost-effective renewable electricity and can deliver steady baseload power. Their contribution towards our legally binding renewables target is essential... Provided support levels are maintained in the forthcoming banding review, Government can look forward to these plants making their contribution towards meeting the UK’s targets.”