Ministers last week confirmed they would shelve the introduction of legislation to reform the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), the Government’s principal mechanism to incentivise the generation of renewable heat, until the start of 2018.

The bill, initially due to be voted in in Spring 2017, has suffered a series of setbacks due to the political distractions of the snap General Election and the Government’s primary focus on Brexit legislation.

ADBA chief executive Charlotte Morton has warned of the “damaging effect” the latest delay will have on the anaerobic digestion (AD) industry’s ability to help decarbonise the gas grid. Morton said that millions of pounds of investment is currently on hold, waiting for clarity from Government.

“This further delay to the passing of the RHI legislation is another unnecessary blow to a vital industry that can make a large contribution to meeting the UK’s targets for decarbonising heat, to which the Government has to date made very little progress,” she said.

“This delay not only puts millions of pounds of investment at risk but on a wider level is a significant threat to the UK’s ability to meet its climate change goals.”

‘Falling behind’

The UK has faced numerous warnings that it will miss its 2020 renewable heat target and significantly damage its global reputation as a climate leader unless “major policy improvements” are rapidly enforced.

Last year, the now-defunct DECC launched a consultation to reform the RHI, with proposals to significantly reduce financial incentives provided by the scheme.

The proposed RHI legislation would restore tariffs for renewable heat production to previously higher levels. Industry experts say that this would help the construction of AD plants that can produce renewable biogas, which can be upgraded to biomethane for injection into the gas grid.

It is understood that the Government may impose restrictions on levels of investment that can receive a guaranteed tariff rate. This could result in Government support being taken away from some projects that have already invested up to £100,000 in reaching the stage where they can apply for a guarantee on the promised higher tariff rates, ADBA warned.

British onsite bioenergy plant provider Clearfleau’s director Richard Gueterbock called on BEIS to support investment in smaller scale clean energy as part of its Industrial Strategy.

“On site bio-energy projects can stimulate clean growth but still need modest incentive support in the medium term,” Gueterbock said.

“Unless the RHI rates are confirmed quickly viable clean energy projects will be lost and the UK food and drink sector will fall behind the competition in other EU countries with regard to low-carbon manufacturing.”

George Ogleby

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