U.K. cuts red tape for biopower projects, opens funding scheme

By Erin Voegele | October 08, 2012

The U.K. has introduced a voluntary reporting process under its Renewables Obligation for coal plants that are converted into renewable biomass facilities or plants that cofire a high proportion of biomass with coal. The U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change said the change will minimize the regulatory burdens on power generators and enable the government to better estimate how much financial support these schemes will need.

“The solution set out today means less new red tape for developers and enables government to manage costs to consumers,” said Energy Minister John Hayes. “Converting from coal to sustainably sourced biomass is good news for both investors and consumers.  It provides a new beginning for our existing power stations, enabling them to achieve radical reductions in emissions, whilst providing affordable, secure and clean energy. I hope that by setting a simple process, we can help safeguard jobs and encourage new investment in biomass generation.”

The DECC has published a fact sheet on this “grandfathering” arrangement. According to the department, subsidies for converted plants that switch back to using some coal with not be assured at original levels. Rather, these facilities will be re-grandfathered after each switch at the subsidy rate that applies at that time. 

The DECC has also opened a £2 million ($3.2 million) bioenergy funding opportunity, and is inviting entrepreneurs within the nation to bid for a share of the money with the goal of spurring innovation. According to the DECC, the bioenergy scheme is aimed specifically at encouraging innovation in bioenergy production on wetlands.

“Our new scheme will help spur on improvements in the way these plants are harvested and used to generate power, helping us cut carbon and meet our renewables targets, whilst maintaining and building on current conservation practices,” said Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker.

Funding is available under three phases. The first phase funding aims to support the development of pre-commercial design ideas into formal project plans. The second phase supports trial activities, while the third phase supports design improvement and additional trials.