REA calls on government to provide support for new UK biomass

The Renewable Energy Association (REA) has welcomed the British government’s new sustainability criteria for biomass power and CHP, published on Thursday; however the association urged government not to withdraw support for the construction of new biomass power plants under the forthcoming Contracts for Difference (CfD) regime.

The criteria will ensure that only projects with strong ecological protections and high carbon savings can be supported under the Renewables Obligation (RO) and count towards renewable energy targets.

However, REA Chief Executive Dr Nina Skorupska expressed the organisation’s dissatisfaction with governmental stance on new plants

Biomass
The government wants to restrict the construction of biomass power plants in the RO, and not support them at all under the forthcoming CfD regime. New biomass plants will only be supported under these schemes if they produce heat as well as power (combined heat and power, CHP).

“CHP is an excellent use of the resource but it is not feasible in sites where there is no user for the heat load. The Government will have serious regrets down the line if it excludes the construction of dedicated biomass power plants from the new regime,” said Ms Skorupska.

The new head of the REA did broadly welcome much of what the strategy is about, saying “These sustainability criteria ensure that the UK can reap the benefits of biomass, safe in the knowledge that it is making a real dent in our carbon emissions and that ecologically sensitive land is being protected. Biomass is a great way to bridge the looming capacity gap because it has all the same benefits as fossil fuels – such as reliability and flexibility of supply – but without the carbon impacts.”

The REA rejects the arguments used by green campaigners who claim that biomass power is ‘dirtier than coal’, stating that anti-biomass campaigners’ research is based on worst case scenarios involving the burning of whole trees and unsustainable forest management.

Greg Barker, minister for energy and climate change, said biomass – now an industry worth £1bn in the UK and supporting 3,000 jobs – had "an important role" in UK energy generation. "The new criteria will provide the necessary investor certainty and ensure that the biomass is delivered in a transparent and sustainable way."

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