UK: Renewable Obligations Order 2011: Sustainability Criteria Proposals

Last Updated: 19 October 2010
Article by Michelle T. Davies

BACKGROUND

Sustainability reporting for biomass was introduced into the Renewable Obligations (RO) in April 2009. The intention was to develop knowledge and expertise ahead of a potentially more rigorous, EU-wide sustainability scheme.

Pending regulation has created uncertainty about the introduction of sustainability criteria. That uncertainty has been raised as one of the main barriers to investment in large biomass electricity projects on the basis that investors are unable to ascertain whether potential projects would be compliant with sustainability criteria not yet determined.

The European Commission's Renewable Energy Directive ("RED") has set mandatory sustainability criteria for bioliquids (and biofuels), however the introduction of sustainability criteria for biomass (and biogas) has been left to the discretion of each member state.

UK SUSTAINABILITY CRITERIA PROPOSALS

The UK government is currently in consultation in respect of biomass (and biogas) sustainability criteria. The current proposals are:

1.   Energy Savings

1.1   60% Greenhouse Gas ("GHG") emission saving for electricity generation relative to fossil fuel. That equates to 258.12 kgCO2/MWh or lower.

2.   Restrictions on Sourcing Feedstock from Specified Land

2.1   Restrictions on using raw materials sourced from land:

2.1.1    with high biodiversity value (proposal to mirror the definition in RED article 17(3)). Such land includes primary forest, areas designated for nature protection purposes, and highly bio-diverse grassland;

2.1.2    with high carbon stock (proposal to mirror the definition in RED article 17(4)). Such land includes land that had the status of wetland or continuously forested area in January 2008 but no longer has that status; and

2.1.3    that was peatland in January 2008 (proposal to mirror the definition in RED article 17(5)).

2.2   Exceptions to restrictions

2.2.1    Proposal for exceptions mirror RED exceptions for bioliquids. For example, where it is shown that the harvesting of the raw material is necessary to preserve grassland status.

3.   Reporting Requirements

3.1    Reporting on; biomass type, format, mass or volume, country of origin, whether waste, energy crop or byproduct, if it meets an environmental standard and the name of that standard, and details of land use change since January 2008.

4.   Exemptions

4.1   Generators below 1MW will not need to comply with the sustainability criteria. (N.B. those generators over 50kW will be required to factually report against the sustainability criteria. Which may, in the future, lead to further criteria with a "lighter touch" for generators below 1MW.)

5.   Timescale for Implementation

5.1   There will be a transitional period from April 2011 to April 2013 whereby all generators over 50kW will be required to report against the sustainability criteria set out in 1-3 above.

5.2   Full implementation from April 2013. At that time support under the Renewable Obligations will be measured against the sustainability criteria and, therefore, attainment of Renewable Obligation Certificates will be linked to complying with the sustainability criteria.

If you would like further information in respect of the Sustainability Criteria for Biomass in the UK, or if you would like to discuss how we can assist with a biomass project, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Please note that the criteria are subject to change as the UK government is still at consultation stage. Final criteria will be determined by the end of October 2010.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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