More biomass co-firing allowed under Renewables Obligation

Energy companies will be able to increase the amount of biomass co-firing they use to meet their renewable energy obligations, the Business Department (BERR) has announced.

Under the Renewables Obligation, electricity suppliers have to source an increasing proportion of their electricity from renewables. In 2009, the level will be 9.7%. They do this by buying evidence of renewable electricity generation - so-called renewables obligation certificates (ROCs) - from generators.

Last year, the government issued proposals to limit the proportion of biomass co-firing a company can use to meet the obligation to 10% (ENDS Report 396, p 41 ). BERR wanted to minimise any uncertainty over the level of co-firing affecting on the price of ROCs.

However, in its response to the consultation issued in December, BERR concluded this caution was unjustified and decided to increase the cap to 12.5%.1

The move gives coal-fired power stations an incentive to increase co-firing.

The rest of the consultation response is dominated by technical changes to the obligation. However, two issues stand out:

  • Pyrolysis/gasification: Concerns have been raised that gasification and pyrolysis plants being developed to treat waste are no more efficient than conventional incineration. BERR will now set eligibility criteria for such processes if they want to claim support under the RO. More efficient plants will receive 2 ROCs per megawatt hour of electricity produced; less efficient plants will receive only 1 ROC.
  • Sustainability reporting: From April 2009, power stations will have to provide basic information about any biomass they burn, such as where it came from.
  • Several respondents to the initial consultation said the reporting should include a life-cycle assessment to show the full environmental impacts of any biomass burned.

    BERR says it would be "expensive and time consuming" now, especially given the immature nature of the biomass supply chain.

    BERR has also published a draft Order for the revised RO.2

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