This week, The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) have published a consultation which seeks views on proposed technical adjustments to sustainability provisions for solid and gaseous biomass under the Renewables Obligation (RO) and Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).

The consultation proposes minor technical adjustments to five specific aspects of the existing or planned reporting requirements and sustainability criteria for biomass, which were previously announced in August 2013 in the Government response to the consultation on proposals to enhance sustainability criteria for the use of biomass feedstocks under the RO. All of the proposals (see below) would apply to the RO in England and Wales. Proposals 3 and 4 only would apply to the RHI in England, Scotland and Wales. It is DECC’s intention that the forthcoming Final Investment Decision Enabling for Renewable (FIDeR) contracts and generic Contracts for Difference (CfD) awarded under the Electricity Market Reform will follow the same approach as the sustainability criteria set under the RO. This consultation will therefore be of interest to developers and investors of biomass projects, whichever phase of the development the project is currently at.

The key proposals outlined by DECC are:

  • Proposal 1: to revise the Saw Logs definition in the RO
  • Proposal 2: to reconsider the reporting requirements for tree species in the RO
  • Proposal 3: to provide exemptions from the Timber Standard for certain categories of wood for the RHI and RO
  • Proposal 4: to add ‘highly biodiverse grasslands’ to the list of protected land types for the RHI and RO
  • Proposal 5: averaging of Greenhouse Gas Emissions across the year in the RO

The consultation closes on 14 July 2014 and DECC intend to publish the Government response later in the summer 2014. DECC intend that the RO Sustainability criteria will come into force once sustainability reporting is mandatory in the scheme from 1 April 2015 onwards. The RHI changes are proposed to come in once secondary legislation has been passed, although there is no firm timeline as yet. It is also DECC’s intention to incorporate the revised sustainability provisions into the Contracts for Differences being drawn up under the Electricity Market Reform (EMR) programme.

The consultation closes on 14 July 2014. Please click here for access to the consultation paper and details of how to submit a response.