DECC launches consultation on 'deeply flawed' biomass cap

DECC has today launched a four-week consultation with proposals on how to controversially limit new biomass projects under the Renewables Obligation mechanism.

Although the Government recognises that biomass will make a "significant contribution" to delivering the UK's 15% renewable energy target in 2020, it believes that compared with offshore wind, dedicated biomass electricity is a costly way of saving carbon.

The Government therefore announced last year it would introduce a dedicated biomass capacity cap of 400MW of new build dedicated biomass generating capacity.

DECC ran a series of workshops with the Renewable Energy Association (REA) in February, to establish the best process for implementing the 400MW cap.

Much of the feedback from these workshops is reflected in the consultation document, which has been welcomed by the trade association.

However, the REA still insists that a cap on new capacity is a deeply flawed concept.

REA chief executive Gaynor Hartnell said: "The entire concept of capping new dedicated biomass capacity is wrong. There may be as much as 1,000MW of projects still in active development, yet DECC wants to limit the build to only 400MW."

The REA claims that biomass generates electricity more cheaply than offshore wind.

In addition, it claims cost of carbon saving through biomass can be lower than offshore wind when agricultural residue and waste wood is used as feedstock.

Hartnell said: "Whilst the proposal is probably the best means of implementing this deeply flawed concept, it is not without risk. There could be a situation where more than 400MW applies to go on the register on the same day. The irony is that DECC should be welcoming such projects, rather than turning them away.

"The UK faces an impending capacity crunch in 2015-16 and the steady, baseload green electricity generation from these biomass projects is needed, and can provide significant investment and jobs across the country."

Last year, the Government lent its support to transitional technologies such as enhanced co-firing, full conversions of coal generating stations to biomass, as well as energy from waste technologies, and combined heat and power (CHP) projects. The cap will not apply to these biomass technologies.

Conor McGlone


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