The criteria is designed to 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. However, the REA is also urging government not to withdraw support for the construction of new biomass power plants under the forthcoming Contracts for Difference (CfD) regime.
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.”
The REA rejects the arguments used by green campaigners who claim that biomass power is ‘dirtier than coal’. It calims that opponents’ research is based on worst case scenarios involving the burning of whole trees and unsustainable forest management. In reality, it says the biomass industry uses primarily thinnings and residues, as it cannot afford to compete with other industries for high quality virgin wood. Sustainable forest management, including high levels of replanting, is in fact key to the foresters’ bottom line as it safeguards their ability to do business in the future.
Dr Nina Skorupska added: “It is absolutely right that biomass should only be supported if it can be proven to be good for the environment. These criteria enable industry to do exactly that. They are challenging, but not unattainable. Generators are actually incentivised to over-achieve on greenhouse gas savings in order to minimise the risk of non-compliance.
“I invite the NGOs who have concerns about biomass to work with us to iron out the details of implementing these standards. If we get it right, which I’m sure we will, the UK will be reinforcing the highest standards of sustainable forestry for trade partners around the world. That is a worthy goal to aim for.”