Friday, 23 August 2013

New regulations create fresh row over biomass power

New regulations to ensure energy generated from forests, crops and waste is sustainable provoked a fresh row on Thursday over biomass power, with the government plans failing to reassure the industry of future financial support.Green campaigners said the new rules would allow the use of destructive forms of biomass, which have been linked to deforestation in other countries.The biomass industry denied this, but will still face a major task to attract investment into the sector, because the government has put strict limits on how biomass plants will be supported under its new regime for the electricity market. Under the current proposals, biomass will be at a disadvantage relative to other forms of generation, because some forms of new biomass power plants will be effectively excluded from the new long-term “contracts for difference” that are the basis of the new system.That may rattle investors. The travails of the industry were highlighted in July with the shelving of plans to turn the Tilbury power station, in Essex, into a biomass-burning plant.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.”The new sustainability rules cover issues such as harvesting rates, to ensure trees can regrow, as well as ensuring wood comes from forests where the biodiversity is not harmed by the harvesting, and where the rights of indigenous people are respected. The government promised there would be no changes to the criteria before 2027, and that the operators of plants who complied with the guidelines would continue to receive subsidies under the Renewable Obligation.Dr Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association, which represents the industry, 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.”

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New regulations create fresh row over biomass power

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