UK REA: Next steps for biomass heat to be discussed in November

By U.K. Renewable Energy Association | November 03, 2016

Since the last annual conference of the U.K.’s wood heating and combined-heat-and-power (CHP) industries, installations in several sectors have slowed in the face of months of policy instability and uncertainty.

Much is to be discussed Nov. 28-29 at the Wood Heat Association’s annual conference in Edinburgh, Scotland. Now boasting nearly 11,800 jobs and as many of 590 companies in 2014/15 (accounting to REView 2016), the sectors that have delivered the majority of the UK’s heat decarburization to date face an unprecedented challenge.

Driving 2016’s difficulties have been the government’s consultation into the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme. Nearly eight months of uncertainty regarding the sector’s future levels of support by government have deterred investors and made the development of new plants a difficulty. Investor confidence was not bolstered in July when the government tabled an amendment in the Commons introducing unforeseen reductions in the tariffs for certain CHP plants. With industry only receiving 21 days’ notice, the amendments put over £140 million ($172.08 million) of investment at risk.

In September the sector rallied behind Andrew Percy, Minister for the Northern Powerhouse at an All-Party Group event in Parliament as he spoke of the economic benefits that the biomass supply chain brings to the North. Percy’s sentiments were shared by Angus MacNeil MP (former chair of the Commons’ Energy and Climate Change Select Committee) and Nigel Adams MP.

Additionally, Jessie Norman MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Industry and Energy acknowledged on Oct. 19 that BEIS would introduce a transition period for many of the biomass CHP plants impacted by the legislation introduced in July.

Now, the industry is looking forward to the publication of the government’s response to the Renewable Heat Incentive consultation, which hopefully will restore confidence in the biomass heat sector.

Other topics that will be discussed at the conference, which will focus on good practice in the industry, will include:

- Good practice in district heating design

- The outlook for biomass heat and CHP, with speakers from BEIS and Ofgem;

- Emissions from biomass boilers;

- Biomass fire and explosion risks;

- The Biomass Suppliers List and Sustainable Fuel Register

The 2016 WHA Conference is sponsored by the Forestry Commission Scotland, Rehau, Close Brothers Asset Finance, and Schiedel Chimney Systems.

Frank Aaskov, renewable heat analyst at the Wood Heat Association and the Renewable Energy Association said, “I can’t recall a year of greater prolonged uncertainty for the biomass heat industry, which began months before the referendum vote. The actual number of projects being installed has certainly taken a hit, particularly on the domestic biomass boiler front. Decarbonizing heat is one of the most challenging sectors and the Wood Heat 2016 Conference in Edinburgh will be critical to discussing how the industry will adapt and thrive in the future.

The industry now looks forward to the outcome of the RHI consultation.”