UK trade groups REA, WHA launch biomass heat campaign

By Katie Fletcher | November 18, 2016

U.K.-based Renewable Energy Association, in association with the Wood Heat Association, recently launched a new campaign in an effort to urge government to prioritize the decarbonization of heat and to support the continued use of sustainable, affordable and low-carbon biomass, as it makes its final decisions around how renewable heat technologies will be funded to 2021.

The consultation on the reform of the Renewable Heat Incentive closed April 27, and the uncertainty revolving around the sector’s future levels of support by government have deterred investors and made the development of new biomass plants difficult. In July, confidence was not reinstated when the then newly formed Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (DBEIS) laid out an amendment in Parliament to reduce support for biomass combined-heat-and-power (CHP) systems under the RHI. According to REA, with industry only receiving 21 days’ notice, the amendments put over £140 million ($172.08 million) of investment at risk.

On Oct. 19, DBEIS acknowledged it would introduce a transition period for many of the biomass CHP plants impacted by the legislation introduced in July. Now, the industry is awaiting the government’s response to the RHI consultation. And, in the meantime, this campaign was launched to emphasize the importance of government’s support of wood heat. 

“The biomass heat sector actively contributes to the regrowth of forests and has been the most popular technology under the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive program, said Frank Aaskov, analyst at the Wood Heat Association. “The government will be making major decisions about the program’s future in the coming weeks and we’re urging them to remember biomass as a force for good.”

According to REA, one-third of the U.K.’s carbon emissions are from the heat sector, which to date just over 4 percent of heat is being produced from renewable sources.

Biomass, derived from discarded tree limbs and other waste wood products, has been a popular means of decarbonizing heat under the RHI in the past, particularly for homeowners, schools and businesses that do not have a connection to the U.K.’s gas grid. In fact, to date, 56 percent of the renewable heat generated in homes under the RHI has been from biomass, and 81 percent of the renewable heat used for non-domestic properties.

As part of the campaign the WHA launched a video on social media, outlining how wood heat translates to reduced emissions when viewed in context with the wider forestry industry.

“We are launching a campaign and a new video designed to emphasize that wood heat in the U.K. is an affordable and sustainable way to decarbonize our heat sector, particularly in rural or off-gas grid properties,” Aaskov added.