Coming into force in April 2015, the new criteria aims to ensure electricity generated from biomass produces over 70% greenhouse gas savings compared to fossil fuel alternatives, while safeguarding the sustainability of wood-fuel used to create energy.

Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change, Greg Barker, said: “The Coalition is committed to delivering clean, affordable and secure energy for consumers. This includes an important role for biomass power as part of the UK’s energy mix.

“The new criteria will provide the necessary investor certainty and, crucially, ensure that the biomass is delivered in a transparent and sustainable way,” he added.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change has said that the new criteria will look at sustainable harvesting rates, biodiversity protection and land use rights for indigenous populations.

Organisations who do not comply with the new requirements could see financial support withheld.

All generators of 1 Megawatt (MW) capacity or more using solid biomass or biogas feedstock will be required to demonstrate that they are meeting the criteria in order to claim support under the Renewables Obligation. This would cover around 98% of all biomass power generation in the UK.

Welcoming the announcement, the REA said the new 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.

REA chief executive Dr Nina Skorupska said: “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.”

However, the REA is urging Government not to withdraw support for the construction of new biomass power plants under the forthcoming Contracts for Difference (CfD) regime.

The Government will restrict the construction of biomass power plants in the RO, and will not provide any support 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).

Skorupska said: “Biomass power can help bridge the energy gap because it is affordable, helps to meet base load power needs and is relatively quick to build. It can also help economic recovery by creating jobs in construction and the ongoing operation of the plants.

“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.”

Leigh Stringer

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