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  4. Scotland to reap the benefits of efficiency with new rules for biomass support

Scotland to reap the benefits of efficiency with new rules for biomass support

18 Sep 2012
  • Renewables Obligation support designed to encourage heat recovery from larger biomass plant
  • 70% efficiency threshold introduced to qualify for support
  • Combined Heat and Power (CHP) systems recognised as the optimum use of resources

Following the Scottish Government’s announcement on 14th September, Renewable Obligation (Scotland) support for large-scale biomass power production will be focussed on those plants which recover heat alongside power production. Strict efficiency standards will effectively require that all plant with electrical capacity of more than 10 MW must operate as CHP plants.

Recognising that there is a limit to the amount of sustainable biomass fuel available, new plant will be required to operate at greater than 70% efficiency in order to qualify for ROCs, which will only be possible if surplus heat is captured rather than vented to the atmosphere. A biomass power station typically operates at around 20-30% efficiency, while CHP plant can reach efficiencies of over 90%.

The new requirement will only apply to plant larger than 10MW, so as not to hinder deployment of smaller, decentralised biomass plant that place a lesser demand on fuel resources.

Scotland is continuing to forge ahead in developing Scandinavian-style heat capture systems, with an expert district heating panel set up last year to masterplan opportunity areas and administer a £7m infrastructure fund. The move to encourage biomass CHP may ultimately help in securing supplies of low-carbon, renewable heats to support these networks.

On making the announcement, Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said:

“Given the Scottish Government’s concerns over competition for a finite supply of wood and the responses to our consultation which reflected that, it is right that we are removing support for those biomass stations over 10 MW that do not provide good quality combined heat and power.”

Commenting on the proposals, CHPA Director Graham Meeks said:

“We welcome the move by the Scottish Government to exempt CHP from the 10 MW cap on eligibility for the Renewables Obligation in Scotland. This decision recognises the advantages of high efficiency CHP, delivering the maximum benefit to consumers from limited biomass resources.

“Scotland is already leading the way in biomass CHP, with the UK's largest biomass plant under development at the Tullis Russell paper mill in Markinch. With a wealth of CHP opportunities in industry, public buildings and serving a growing number of district heating schemes, Scotland has the scope now to accelerate progress towards its renewable goals whilst making most effective use of its precious biomass resource.”