Biomass power has a key role in the UK’s energy generation policy and in April 2014, new biomass regulations are set to be introduced which will have a far reaching impact across the country. For farmers who currently receive subsidies for generating energy using ‘green’ methods, this legislation will mean they need to prove that their biomass feed stocks meet specific criteria in order to continue to receive financial assistance derived from the government’s Renewable Obligation policy.
What are the New Regulations?
The main purpose of these regulations is to ensure that public money is only spent on energy that has been generated sustainably using crops and waste. Although the specifics of the implementation have yet to be finalised, these regulations will require that those supplying raw materials (like farmers) will need to prove they can meet certain sustainability criteria.
In order to protect biodiversity, this new legislation will also affect harvesting rates. By ensuring that all wood comes from sustainable forests (which allow fallow time for trees to re-grow) it is hoped that the UK’s carbon footprint will become smaller and land will be protected for future generations.
What do these Changes Mean for Local Farmers?
Although the issues surrounding biomass power and its production are both complex and controversial, it is hoped that the changes will be relatively direct and straightforward for any suppliers directly affected.
Farmers already receiving money under the Renewables Obligation (RO) and the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) to generate wood and plant derived biomass, will be required to prove their sustainability through land usage. Put simply, in order to secure their subsidy, farmers growing bioenergy crops will need to provide proof that they have not converted land that is high in carbon into crops.
How will these Regulations be monitored?
Although it is universally agreed that it will prove highly challenging for affected parties to ‘prove’ that their energy is sustainable, one of the first steps being taken to regulate the process is the creation of a list of registered suppliers.
Whilst not mandatory at the outset, joining the list will most likely become a necessity to farmers who wish to continue to trade as it makes them more ‘visible’ to ethically conscientious energy consumers. Overall, many are likely to turn to registered suppliers rather than go to the trouble and expense of finding alternative proof that the supply chain they are using is sustainable.