Urgent calls for Government to extend the RHI following launch of new bioenergy report…

Biomass Heat Works Decarbonising Heat Today.jpg

Urgent calls for the UK Government to extend (and commit to) the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme after 2021 have been made by the Biomass Heat Works! campaign following today’s publication of a new bioenergy report (05 September 2019).

Leaders from the biomass industry, including the UK Pellet Council (UKPC) and the Wood Heat Association (WHA) which are behind the Biomass Heat Works! campaign, are urging ministers to act now and specify biomass as the most proven solution for addressing heat decarbonisation, especially in rural areas, after evidence suggests that the UK could almost triple its use of bioenergy as a heat source from 6% to 16% by 2032 and achieve net zero targets by 2050, with biomass being a major contributor.[1]

Serious calls for an extension to the RHI scheme are now being made after the launch of the Renewable Energy Association’s (REA) ‘Bioenergy Strategy Review’ report. This would allow new renewable heat projects to be funded thereby helping the UK to meet EU targets by 2020 (12% heat source) and also its net zero emission pledge by 2050.

As yet, no other measures are tabled by Government for when the RHI closes to new applications in March 2021, and this lack of forward planning is having significant impact on the development of future projects, especially for larger scale biomass heat schemes, potential new jobs as well as creating increasing uncertainty within the wider biomass supply chain.

Biomass contributes to more than 46,000 jobs across the UK’s bioenergy sector equating to almost four times the number of people working in UK fisheries (11,700 with 2,000 of these being part-time jobs[2]) and 14,000 more jobs than the steel industry[3]. Given the current economic and environmental climate, biomass should, therefore, play a key role in the country’s future renewable energy mix.

Mark Lebus, Chair of the UK Pellet Council, explained, “Time is running out and this latest report backs our call for the Government to fully support and invest in the UK’s biomass heat industry. Ministers need to address the heat decarbonisation issue here and now, and enable the most effective, commercially ready and proven, low carbon solution, ie biomass, to play an integral role in delivering their objectives and reducing carbon emissions.  

 “The biomass heat industry supports circa 700+ supply chain companies and this must be protected, especially in rural communities where biomass can create a workable circular economy across farming, agriculture and forestry sectors. It is often the most viable and lowest carbon option available to businesses and households in off-gas grid areas.

“By extending the RHI, which has already demonstrated significant return on investment for successive Governments, we can maintain industry growth and momentum, create further employment stability, stimulate an extra 150MW of thermal capacity annually, and provide certainty amongst consumers as carbon pricing and fossil fuel duties take effect. The Government cannot afford to simply let this drop off a cliff edge.

“Ministers must act now and send a very strong signal to the market to discourage fossil fuel usage, encouraging the use of renewable alternatives, and a time-limited extension and open commitment to a more simplified version of the RHI would achieve that.”

Renewable heat generation increased by 11% in 2018 with almost 50% of this increase being due to biomass alone, However, in relation to decarbonising heat in other European countries and their reliance on bioheat, the UK (5.6%) is lagging way behind its counterparts including Sweden (59.5%), Finland (50.7%) and Portugal (33.8%)[4] at a time when it has declared a climate emergency. The Biomass Heat Works! campaign is therefore urging the UK Government to build on the most successful renewable heating programme instead of abandoning it.

ENDS 05 Sept 2019

The Bioenergy Strategy, which identifies the importance of increasing deployment of biomass heat, is available here: https://www.bioenergy-strategy.com/publications

Approximately 18% of renewable heat was supported by the RHI in 2018 compared with 14% in 2017, with non-domestic heat generation supported by the scheme increasing by 32% (medium capacity biomass boilers accounting for 50%)[5]

[1] https://www.bioenergy-strategy.com/

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/fishing-industry-in-2017-statistics-published

[3] https://fullfact.org/economy/british-steel/

[4] Bioenergy Europe Statistical Report 2018

[5] https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/digest-of-uk-energy-statistics-dukes-2019