Biomass industry leaders issue warning over government consultation

The consultation, outlining options to replace the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), closes on 7 July

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Representatives of the UK Pellet Council and Biomass Heat Works! are seriously urging those supplying to, operating within or using biomass for domestic or commercial heating, to respond to an open government consultation which potentially suggests having a one year ‘funding gap’ if approved.

The online ‘Future Support for Low Carbon Heat’ consultation being delivered by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), outlines options to replace the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) which closes in March 2021. It includes a Clean Heat Grant Scheme whereby biomass heat projects could receive a maximum support grant of £4,000.

This, if approved, is earmarked to come into effect from April 2022 meaning that new renewable heat installation projects between 2021 and 2022 could be at huge risk and the market possibly collapsing if little to no financial incentive is available for customers. This would lead to a loss of jobs and investment at a time when the country needs it most.

Furthermore, biomass representatives are concerned that a possible grant of such limited financial amount would only cover boiler installations of up to approximately 15kW, meaning that a huge part of the UK market, especially larger commercial installations able to significantly reduce carbon emissions, would simply be overlooked. They are now urging individuals, owner-managers, suppliers and biomass users to get involved in the consultation and offer their feedback before the looming deadline – 11:45pm on Tuesday 7 July 2020.

Mark Lebus, Chairman of the UK Pellet Council commented, “If the consultation proposals go ahead, it would mean that biomass could play a very minor, limited role in future heat decarbonisation strategy and wider net zero discussions, which as part of any future heat technologies mix, simply does not make sense. Biomass is widely and successfully used in remote, rural and off-gas grid areas because it is the most suitable and proven option available, so to potentially look to minimise its role when simultaneously trying to meet carbon reduction targets and create sustainable woodlands, seems way off the mark.

“We’re talking here about biomass as the ‘waste’ part of the tree, the unwanted residue, but it plays a significant part in a circular economy, namely from forestry management to wood pellet production through to renewable heating installation and supply.

“We are a completely separate industry to the larger, industrial sector which feeds the power stations, and should not be confused with it. Biomass heat, especially in rural and challenging, off-grid areas, is a UK-driven market with localised benefits. We support over 46,000 jobs, the vast majority in rural locations, 700 plus supply chain companies, and have enabled the Government to address heat decarbonisation as part of the RHI in challenging areas.

“Whilst I acknowledge that the consultation is still ongoing, I urge those whose businesses, jobs, households or communities benefit from biomass in some way to offer their opinions as we could see a vast reduction in renewable heat projects over the next twelve months and beyond, and a potential return to fossil fuel for many.”

The consultation is open until 11:45pm on Tuesday 7 July 2020 – you can view more information and submit responses at www.gov.uk/government/consultations/future-support-for-low-carbon-heat. 

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