Edinburgh conference to focus on future for British biomass heat industry

biomass-timber-logsLeading companies in the British biomass heat industry are to hold a two-day conference in Edinburgh later this month to discuss the recent compromise proposed by Government on biomass CHP tariff changes and the ongoing uncertainty around the Renewable Heat Initiative.

Nearly eight months of uncertainty regarding the sector’s future levels of support by Government have deterred investors and made the development of new plants a difficulty.

Investor confidence was not bolstered in July when the Government tabled an amendment in the Commons introducing unforeseen reductions in the tariffs for certain CHP plants. With industry only receiving 21 days’ notice, the amendments put more than £140 million of investment at risk.

Since the last annual conference of the UK’s wood heating and combined-heat-and-power industries, installations in several sectors have slowed in the face of months of policy instability and uncertainty. 

Frank Aaskov, renewable heat analyst at the Wood Heat Association and the Renewable Energy Association, said: “I can’t recall a year of greater prolonged uncertainty for the biomass heat industry, which began months before the referendum vote. The actual number of projects being installed has certainly taken a hit, particularly on the domestic biomass boiler front.

“Decarbonising heat is one of the most challenging sectors and the Wood Heat 2016 Conference in Edinburgh will be critical to discussing how the industry will adapt and thrive in the future.

“The industry now looks forward to the outcome of the RHI consultation.”

Now boasting nearly 11,800 jobs and as many of 590 companies in 2014-15 (accounting to REView 2016), the Wood Heating Association members have delivered the majority of the UK’s heat decarbonisation to date face an unprecedented challenge. 

In September the sector rallied behind Andrew Percy, Minister for the Northern Powerhouse at an All-Party Group event in the Commons as he spoke of the economic benefits that the biomass supply chain brings to the North.

Percy’s sentiments were shared by SNP MP Angus MacNeil, the former chairman of the Commons’ Energy and Climate Change Select Committee).

Additionally, recently Jessie Norman MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Industry and Energy acknowledged that DeBEIS would introduce a transition period for many of the biomass CHP plants impacted by the legislation introduced in July. 

Now, the industry is looking forward to the publication of the Government’s response to the Renewable Heat Incentive consultation, which hopefully will restore confidence in the biomass heat sector. 

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