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UK biomass bodies warn of significant impact if government's consultation proposals are introduced

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 UK government consultation which potentially suggests having a one-year ‘funding gap’ if approved. This puts new renewable heat installation projects between 2021 and 2022 at huge risk, potentially collapsing the market if little to no financial incentive is available for customers, the bodies warn.

Chair of the UK Pellet Council (UKPC) and Biomass Heat Works!, Mark Lebus
(photo courtesy UKPC).

The online ‘Future Support for Low Carbon Heat’ consultation being delivered by the UK 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 GBP4 000 (≈ EUR 4 437).

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 put 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.

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, commented Mark Lebus, Chairman of the UK Pellet Council.

Furthermore, biomass representatives are concerned that a possible grant of such limited financial amount would only cover boiler installations of up to approximately 15 kW, meaning that a huge part of the UK market, especially larger commercial installations able to significantly reduce carbon emissions, would simply be overlooked.

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, said Mark Lebus.

They are now urging individuals, owner-managers, suppliers, and biomass users to get involved in the consultation and offer their feedback before the looming July 7, 2020, consultation deadline.

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, ended Mark Lebus.

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