U.K. opens consultation on Renewable Obligation proposal

By Erin Voegele | September 12, 2012

The U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change recently opened a consultation on its proposed changes to the biomass sustainability criteria set under the Renewables Obligation and proposed measures to ensure affordability and value. Members of the public are invited to submit comments on the proposals, which relate to power generation.

According to information released by the department, tough criteria have been designed to ensure the biomass used in U.K. power stations is sustainable. Some of the proposed requirements would require wood fuel to come from sustainably-managed forest. A cap is also proposed on the support provided to new dedicated biomass power under the RO, which aims to ensure that it deliver value-for-money while enabling shovel-ready projects to move forward.

Several additional changes are proposed and would take effect April 1, 2013. A full draft of the proposal can be downloaded from the DECC website.

“Biomass has the potential to provide a significant amount of renewable electricity in this decade and beyond, said U.K. Energy Secretary Edward Davey. “These proposals make clear our commitment to ensuring that the use of biomass power is sustainable both for the environment, and for the consumer.”

Eversheds, a corporate law firm with a strong European presence, issued a statement outlining some of the specific changes included in the DECC’s biomass proposal. According to the organization, the U.K. government is proposing that 1 MW biomass and biogas facilities should be required to meet the sustainability criteria as a prerequisite for receiving support under the RO, starting in October 2013. The DECC proposal also sets GHG lifecycle criteria for new dedicated biomass, existing dedicated biomass, and coal plant conversions or biomass co-firing.

According to information published by Eversheds, the proposal would also require additional reporting and auditing requirements for biomass facilities that can produce more than 50 kW of power, including the form of biomass, volume, origin, and format. Waste and bioliquid facilities would be exempt from the requirement.

The proposal also calls for limited grandfathering with regard to sustainability criteria, and would require a sustainability audit report from an independent verifier for all stations with a capacity of 1 MW or higher. The Eversheds summary can be downloaded from its website

The Renewable Energy Association has issued a statement illustrating its concern for the new RO consultation proposals. “The second consultation for biomass power and CHP introduces new levels of complexity for biomass projects, and puts a limit on the amount of plant coming through,” said the REA in a statement. “Biomass currently has to demonstrate greenhouse gas savings of 60 percent compared to fossil generation in order to qualify for support under the RO (1.5 ROCs per MWh for dedicated biomass and 2 ROCs per MWh for CHP).” The organization also criticizes the fact that the CHP uplift under the RO would be withdrawn in 2015.

“Instead of ramping up progress, government is actually making the project development process unworkable for some technologies,” said REA Chief Executive Gaynor Harnell. “The coalition must focus not only on the tremendous benefits renewables have to offer the UK, but also on the overall framework and approach, which has become overly complex and debilitating.”

Information on how to submit a comment on the proposal is available on the DECC website.