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United Kingdom Government Confirms Change to Sustainability Criteria for Biomass

by Caroline Lindsey

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in the United Kingdom published its response to its “Consultation on proposals to enhance the sustainability criteria for the use of biomass feedstocks under the Renewables Obligation (RO)” on 22 August 2013 (the Response). The original consultation was published on 7 September 2012.

In the Response, the UK Government confirms that it will proceed with its proposals to revise the content and significance of the sustainability criteria applicable to the use of solid biomass and biogas feedstocks for electricity generation under the Renewables Obligation (RO). The RO is currently the principal regime for incentivising the development of large-scale renewable electricity generation in the United Kingdom. Eligible electricity generators receive renewables obligation certificates (ROCs) for each megawatt hour (MWh) of renewable source electricity that they generate. Biomass qualifies as renewable source electricity, subject to some conditions.

Changes to the criteria

The sustainability criteria associated with the RO is broadly divided into greenhouse gas (GHG) lifecycle criteria, land use criteria and profiling criteria. There will be changes to all of the criteria, but the significant changes relate to the first two criteria, and will take effect from 1 April 2014.

In general terms, the GHG lifecycle criteria are designed to ensure that each delivery of biomass results in a minimum GHG emissions saving, when compared to the use of fossil fuel. The savings are measured in kilograms (kg) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2eq) per MWh over the lifecycle of the consignment (sometimes referred to as “field or forest to flame”). The UK Government has confirmed that all generating plants using solid biomass and / or biogas (including dedicated, co-firing or converted plants and new and existing plants) will be on the same GHG emissions trajectory from 1 April 2020 (200 kg CO2eq per MWh). In the meantime, new dedicated biomass power will be placed on an accelerated GHG emissions trajectory (240kg CO2eq per MWh). All other biomass power will remain on the standard GHG emissions trajectory (285kg CO2eq per MWh) until 1 April 2020.

Changes to the land use criteria will also be introduced. In particular, generating plants using feedstocks which are virgin wood or made from virgin wood will need to meet new sustainable forest management criteria based on the UK Government’s timber procurement policy principles.

The land use criteria set out in the European Union (EU) Renewable Energy Directive 2009 (RED) will continue to apply to the use of all other solid biomass and biogas, with some specific variations for energy crops. As is the current position, the land use criteria will not apply to the use of biomass waste or feedstocks wholly derived from waste, animal manure or slurry.

The new sustainability criteria will be fixed until 1 April 2027, except if the EU mandates or recommends specific changes to the sustainability criteria for solid biomass, biogas or bioliquids, or if changes are otherwise required by EU or international regulation.

Making compliance mandatory

Currently, whilst generators using [...]

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Renewable Energy Certificates: New Trading Platform

by Rashpaul Bahia

On May 8, 2012, STX Services B.V. (STX), launched an electronic trading platform for the sale and purchase of renewable energy certificates relating to power consumption within the European Union. 

The new platform will allow for the trading of Guarantee of Origin (GoO) certificates which provide proof to the final customer that the energy produced was from renewable sources.  GoO certificates were introduced by the 2009 EU Renewable Energy Directive. One GoO certificate represents the generation of one megawatt hour of electricity.

STX, an Amsterdam-based brokerage firm dealing in environmental based commodities, held its first auction on May 8, 2012 and is likely to hold another one towards the end of May 2012.  STX has stated that it hopes to eventually run daily auctions, and expand to include other renewable energy certificates.

STX feels that the advantages of the new trading platform are that:

  • buyers and sellers of GoO certificates can participate concurrently;
  • buyers and sellers can login to the platform from wherever they are located;
  • the supply and demand dynamic of the online auction will result in the realization of a true and fair market price; and
  • it provides greater liquidity in an otherwise fragmented international market.

More than 25 percent of the most active market participants attended the first auction, during which 100,000 GoOs were bought and sold at a clearing price of €0.37.  Participants in this first auction pointed to, amongst other things, the transparency and efficiency engendered by the new platform.

The launch of this new trading platform comes at a time when the European Commission is actively looking at ways to regulate and increase the transparency of commodity markets.  Proposals include establishing transparent trading venues. STX has designed its new platform with this in mind, and hopes that it will enable all participants to buy and sell renewable energy certificates on a level playing field.

In addition, the new platform represents a further development and expansion in the trading of green power. 

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