Thursday, April 27, 2006

Biomass renewable heat - the way ahead is still slow and tortured

A new 5 year capital grant scheme for biomass boilers, with funding of £10 - £15 million over the first two years and a second round of the Bio-energy Infrastructure Scheme, with funding at, or close to the level, proposed by the Task Force is part of the Government's Response to the Biomass Task Force Report announced today by Defra.

The Task Force's recommendation that the Government should not pursue a renewable heat obligation which was attacked by many groups, will be considered further and the evidence reviewed.

Other features include:
  • Agreement in principle to support for energy crops under the new Rural Development Programme for England to be introduced in 2007, closely integrated with bioenergy market development
  • Announcement of the Forestry Commission's new Biomass Energy Centre as a major new hub for bioenergy advice and best practice for industry and the public
  • Further measures to integrate environmental assessment in the planning of energy crop development
  • Government leadership through public procurement, including the commitment to map the potential use of biomass across the main procuring departments of the Government estate
  • Working with Regional Development Agencies and other organisations to ensure effective, coordinated mechanisms for delivery of policy and advice
  • Action already taken to improve the Renewables Obligation
  • Use of the planning system to stimulate renewables development, including our support for planning authorities applying a minimum percentage of renewable energy in new developments
  • Action to address regulatory barriers identified by the Task Force and to develop standards to improve efficacy and confidence in biomass
  • Support for the EU Biomass Action Plan and agreement on UK membership of the Global Bioenergy Partnership from its launch in May 2006.
  • The introduction of new Building Regulations, from April 2006, with new procedures and tougher standards which will encourage the use of Low or Zero Carbon (LZC) systems, such as biomass
The Renewable Energy Association calls the proposals a missed opportunity.

Graham Meeks, Head of Heat at the REA, said: "Eighteen months after the Government launched the Biomass Task Force we are still waiting for new measures to drive real growth in the market for renewable heat supplies. The opportunity to deliver real progress in tackling climate change, lift households out of fuel poverty and create sustainable jobs in the rural economy is still being squandered.”

Graham Meeks called on the Government to move quickly to implement an overarching policy that directly rewards the environmental, security and social benefits of supplying heat from renewable sources.

"Biomass can meet 7% of UK demand for heat, reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels, and cut CO2 emissions by over 20 million tonnes each year.

"The Government has used obligations on suppliers to stimulate demand in the renewable electricity and transport fuels markets. So it seems bizarre that we are still waiting for the same level of incentive for heat.

"The measures outlined today, including a new capital grant programme, will certainly help the biomass industry. But they will have only a limited impact in delivering the sustained, long-term industry growth Government should be looking for."

>> The Strategy

>> The Biomass Task Force report

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