UK government issues response to biomass RHI consultation

By Erin Voegele | April 30, 2020

The U.K. government on April 28 published the results of a 2018 public consultation focused on the use Renewable Heat Incentive support for biomass in urban areas, geographical restrictions on biogas combustion, and maintenance checks for existing biomass boilers.  

In its response to the consultation, the U.K. government said it will not proceed with the removal of eligibility for new biomass installations in on-grid urban areas, as this would only prevent the accreditation of a very limited number of near installations. Instead, the government said improvements to the scheme will focus on the existing cohort of RHI accredited biomass installations and any new biomass installations accrediting to the RHI for the remainder of the scheme.

The government also said it will not impose any geographical restrictions on biogas production.

In addition, the government aims to ensure that industry standards will play a stronger role in the future of the RHI to minimize air quality impacts and promote a healthy U.K. biomass supply chain. The government said it will work closely with the biomass industry and Ofgem to develop an industry standard for boiler maintenance checks and will implement a standard annual test as an ongoing obligation for all accredited RHI biomass installations.

The government will also work closely with Ofgem to strengthen enforcement of the existing RHI regulations related to air quality, and, if necessary, introduce new powers at the closure of the scheme. In addition, a fit for purpose fuel quality regime will be built for biomass feedstocks for the remainder of the remainder of the RHI period. “We are working in partnership with experts from across the biomass industry, to design a stronger quality and waste fuel assurance regime for U.K. biomass fuels,” the government said in its response. “This will improve the emissions caused by poor quality fuel burned in RHI accredited installations.”

Also on April 28, the U.K. government announced changes to RHI support. The domestic RHI scheme will be extended for an additional year, through March 31, 2022. A flexible third allocation of tariff guarantees (TGs) will also be introduced. In addition, the commissioning deadlines for projects currently holding a TG will be extended through at least mid-March 2021. The nondomestic RHI scheme, however, will close to new applications on March 31, 2021 as scheduled.

In addition, the U.K. government has opened a new public consultations seeking public input in preparation for the formal closure of the non-domestic RHI scheme to new applicants and seeking public input on options for the future support for low-carbon heat, beyond the RHI.

“Overall, these are mixed announcements for the renewable heat industry,” said Frank Gordon, head of policy at the U.K. Renewable Energy Association. “On the one hand, they have provided much welcomed clarity on the completion of projects currently underway, the prospect of new projects and the Government’s commitment to green gas. This is a step in the right direction for the sector, providing the certainty needed to increase investor confidence and deploy much needed renewable heat technology.

“On the other hand, we were disappointed by the lack of extension for new Non-Domestic RHI projects and the implications the cap on the future grant scheme will have,” Gordon continued. “Both of which could result in business’s being unable to finish their projects or continue to operate at a time when the industry needs to be bolstered to achieve our legally binding Net Zero targets.

“Going forward, if we are to decarbonise heat in line with the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendations, the Government must ensure that all renewable heat technologies and projects have a fair route to market,” he added.

Additional information is available on the U.K. Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy website.