Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Commercial RHI - summary of changes to tariffs and technologies

Are you sitting comfortably?

DECC has been busy releasing new and updated information about both the commercial and domestic RHI and renewable heat in general.

To my eyes the overall renewable heat situation looks extremely healthy at the moment, particularly if you are in the biomass sector.  However, it is also clear that biomass is dominating the commercial RHI.  Consequently DECC will introduce changes to the budgetary process to increase the degression trigger sensitivity for sub-1MW biomass.

We have read the latest update on the commercial RHI and have picked out the main points from the executive summary.  We would urge interested readers to look at the entire document in case we have missed anything.

A key change is the capping of all tariffs at 10p/kWh.  This means that the RPI inflation of tariffs will stop at 10p/kWh.  For biomass it is the tier 1 small biomass tariff that is closest to this limit (n.b. the solar thermal tariff will be increased to 10p/kWh).

It is true that some renewable heat technologies are underperforming in the RHI, such as heat pumps and solar thermal.  However, DECC has recognised this and will beef up support - via increased tariffs and budgets - as well altering some requirements (such as energy efficiency).  The large biomass tariff, for example, will increase to 2.0p/kWh from 1.0p/kWh.


For new technologies and updated tariffs - 4 Dec 2013.  Any applications with a date of accreditation of 21 January 2013 or later will benefit from the tariff increases brought forward as a result of the Early Tariff Review consultation (this applies to ground source heat pumps (GSHP), solar thermal and biomass over 1MWth).

Energy Efficiency

DECC will not be introducing explicit energy efficiency criteria for non-domestic RHI applicants at this time. The mixed views from consultation respondents made it clear that more work needs to be done to establish a range of effective but not unduly burdensome energy efficiency measures that could be introduced into the scheme.

Biomass Sustainability Update

Based on feedback from stakeholders about industry readiness,  DECC  will postpone implementing mandatory compliance with GHG lifecycle emissions savings to Autumn 2014, so that industry and participants can monitor their processes in light of the sustainability criteria and build the audit trail necessary to demonstrate compliance.

DECC intend for the Biomass Suppliers List to be open for applications from suppliers of biomass in Spring 2014.

Subject to the availability of Parliamentary time,  DECC  intend to implement land-use sustainability criteria by 1 April 2015.

Biomass CHP

DECC will be introducing support for biomass CHP (4.1p/kWh), biogas >200kW (5.9 p/kWh and 2.2pkWh depending on size) and deep geothermal (5.0p/kWh). 

However, we do not intend to proceed at this time with support for heating only air-to-air heat pumps or biomass direct air as the consultation did not enable the development of appropriate deliverable policy.

Biogas combusion >200kWth

Subject to State Aid approval, tariffs will be set at 5.9p/kWh for installations with a thermal capacity of between 200 to 600kWth and 2.2p/kWh for those greater than 600kWth.

Deep geothermal

DECC will introduce a new tariff for deep geothermal heat at 5p/kWh. Deep geothermal heat will be defined as heat coming from a drilling depth of a minimum of 500m.

Heating only air-to-air heat pumps (AAHPs)

Although these technologies do produce renewable heat,  DECC  will not be introducing support for them at this time. This is primarily because of the risk of incentivising the installation of separate heating and cooling AAHPs in order to claim the RHI, rather than a reversible AAHP, which is likely to be more energy efficient.

Air to Water Heat Pumps and Energy from Waste

DECC will be introducing support set at 2.5p/kWh for AWHP (designed to achieve a minimum seasonal performance factor of at least 2.5) and 2.0p/kWh for the biogenic proportion of energy from waste (commercial and industrial).

Value for Money Cap and Tariff Rate of Return

From Spring 2014 tariffs across the RHI will be capped at 10.0p/kWh of renewable heat (and continue to be adjusted by RPI annually).


To date deployment of large biomass has been below expectations and therefore  DECC  will go ahead with the proposed tariff increase to 2.0p/kWh.

Ground Source Heat Pump Tariffs

DECC will be replacing the current banded GSHP tariffs with a single tariff of 7.2p/kWh, which will be tiered.

The tier 1 tariff of 8.7p/kWh will be paid on the initial heat generated for an eligible purpose and the tier 2 tariff of 2.6p/kWh will be paid on the remaining eligible heat generated. This is equivalent to a tariff of 10.0p/kWh renewable heat assuming an SPF of 3.6.

Solar thermal

DECC will be raising the solar thermal tariff to 10.0p/kWh.

Budget management

Since implementation,  DECC  has made three quarterly degression assessments, one of which resulted in the medium biomass tariff being reduced by 5%. The outcome of the most recent assessment was published at the end of November.  DECC  will publish the fourth quarterly announcement by 1 March 2014.

In the May 2013 tariff review consultation we set out that the budget management policy would need to be developed in light of any tariff changes or scheme extensions and to reflect the outcome of the spending review for 2015/16, which has since confirmed an RHI budget in 2015/16 of up to £430m.

Having reviewed the budget management mechanism to ensure it remains fit for purpose,  DECC  will make some changes to the policy from Spring 2014 to:
  • base the deployment levels set out in the degression mechanism on refreshed market intelligence rather than the expectations that were modelled prior to the scheme’s introduction;
  • reduce the tolerance in the technology trigger for biomass under 1MWth and bio-methane injection by reducing the amount that these triggers are scaled above expected levels of deployment. They will change from being 150% of expected deployment to 120% of expected deployment. This will reduce the risk of unsustainable growth and dominance of the budget by a small number of technologies;
  • set the triggers for technologies  DECC  expects to deploy in relatively lower volumes (solar thermal, deep geothermal and all biogas) at 2.5% of the overall budget, rather than the current 5%.
Reducing uncertainty for projects with long-lead times

DECC intend to introduce a form of tariff guarantee for the largest installations (for example, those over 1MW), initially available for plant due to be commissioned by 31 March 2016. Subject to further policy development in 2014, State Aid and Parliamentary approval,  DECC  will aim for this measure to be in place from April 2015 to March 2016 and thereafter factored into the next spending review discussions on the RHI so that it can be available from Spring 2016 for plant due to commission by 31 March 2020.

Public Grants

After two years of the non-domestic RHI we think a more flexible approach to the interaction between public grants and the RHI could encourage more renewable heat installations to come forward. Pending further work alongside the 2014 review to look at the interaction between public grants and the non-domestic RHI,  DECC  intend to introduce some additional flexibility next year. We will take forward regulatory amendments to extend the eligibility window for repayment of grants and to allow some grant recipients who are unable to pay back their grants to access the RHI via reduced tariff payments.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Renewable Heat Incentive - safe from degression (for the time being)

Following the most recent check on uptake Ofgem has announced that the commercial RHI tariffs will remain unchanged.

This was the first serious 'degression test' for the commercial RHI. DECC's figures show that both the small and medium commercial biomass tariffs had exceeded their degression trigger points:
  • Small commercial biomass: Forecast spend over the next 12 months is £32.3m. This is £4.3m over its individual technology trigger.
  • Medium commercial biomass: Forecast spend over the next 12 months for is £26.5m. This is £0.2m over its individual technology trigger.
However, because spend for all other tariff categories were considerably below their individual tariff thresholds for this quarter, and overall spend was within budget, Ofgem has decided to leave all tariffs unchanged.

Commercial RHI - total spend (Nov 14 2013)
Total forecast expenditure for the scheme (as of October 31st) was £70.3 million. 

As the £70.3m figure does not exceed either threshold (see below) the scheme has been left unchanged:
  • The “50% trigger” for the scheme as a whole as at 31 October is £71.6m.
  • The “100% trigger" for the scheme as a whole as at 31 October is £143.3m.
Biomass heating is clearly the biggest 'winner' from the commercial RHI. In contrast to the feed-in-tariff (FiT) for renewable electricity, which grew exponentially, RHI growth has been far more linear (and thus more predictable).

But as you can see the commercial RHI was very close to its degression trigger in October - for some tariffs - and we suspect that things may get even tighter in the near future.

Uptake of commercial RHI Source: KDAONB

The forecast spend for the small commercial biomass tariff means that it is already above its next quarters individual technology trigger (£30.9m on January 31st 2014).

This means that there is enhanced risk of degression in this tariff.  However, this would only occur if next quarter’s 50% trigger for overall expenditure of £83.2m was also exceeded.

RPI (%) Source: ONS
The good news is that the scheme overall is nearing its third 'inflation point' on April 1st 2014.  

The commercial RHI tariffs have already been increased by the Retail Prices Index (RPI) twice (4.8% in 2012, 3.1% in 2013) and the increase may help offset degression  if it happens.

However, the latest figures from the ONS show that the RPI is falling so the cushioning effect may not be so marked in April '14.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

China bans import of Ash from Europe

AQSIQ Import ban notice
China has banned the import of ash (Fraxinus Excelsior) in log and sawn timber form from Europe.  This adds to the existing ban for the import of seeds and nursery stock.  

China has been a large importer of ash over the last few years this ban is significant for those involved in the trade.  

Whilst there are other important markets for ash, for example firewood, this immediate cessation of exports may have an impact on price for some parts of the supply chain.

Some commentators have suggested that woodland owners cease felling ash (for export) until the longevity of the ban is established.  

Other commentators, such as the Forestry Commission, have also suggested that woodland owners might consider delaying the felling of ash.  However, this is to prevent the loss of resistant trees rather than a temporary cessation of activity oriented towards export markets.

Ash dieback distribution (Source: Forestry Commission)
Interesting China recommends that local forestry administrations should reinforce surveillance of ash dieback and implement emergency response plans.  In Kent, where ash dieback is now widespread, local guidance is being prepared and County emergency planners have developed a response plan.

China's ban is immediate and will remain in place until the status of the epidemic allow the ban to be removed.  

Given that the impact of ash dieback is only beginning to be felt in the east of England and Kent it could be that China's plan stays in place for several years.

This could also be an opportunity for the UK.  If ash can no longer be exported easily from the UK this might be positive for those involved in indigenous supply and consumption.  This blog is not aware of the economics of timber for export to China but our guess is that ash firewood supplied locally is probably far more valuable (as is most firewood)!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Deer Management Courses

Plumpton College and The Deer Initiative will deliver a series of one day courses on deer management in December and February.

Each course will look at different aspects of deer management covering deer awareness, population dynamics and cull, deer impact assessment, landowner and deer stalker agreements, landscape scale management, risks and liabilities and deer economics.

The course dates are as follows:

  • Day 1: 17th December 2013
  • Day 2: 25th February 2014
  • Day 3: 26th February 2014
  • Day 4: 27th February 2014

The cost per say is £55.00 (RDPE) or £158.50 (full cost).

For more details contact Plumpton College at Flimwell (01580 879 547

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Forestry Commission - Surplus equipment for sale Nov 2013

The November 2013 Forestry Commission tender sale catalogue is now available.

The lots range from forwards and harvesters, to four-wheel-drive vehicles and chain saws.  There is also a selection of wood working machinery and workshop tools and equipment.

Bids for items must be received in writing by 11.00 am on the 28th November 2013.

The web page for the sale can be found here.  The catalogue for the sale can be found here.  For further information on sale items contact Tommy Groat on 01786 220250 or 07968 106613 (email

Friday, 1 November 2013

Forestry & Woodfuel - Market Update - FREE evening seminar

The Kent Downs Woodfuel Pathfinder, in partnership with the Forestry Commission and the Deer Initiative, will present an update on the forestry and woodfuel sectors in Kent on November 20th.

This free event will focus on the changes taking place in the forestry sector and provide insights into future opportunities.  

In particular the event will look at how improving markets for chip wood, in part stimulated by a new biomass power station in East Kent, may require  enhanced mechanisation and collaboration among forestry businesses.

The event will take place at the Grasshopper Inn at Moorhouse on the A25 near Westerham.  The event will open at 6:30 pm and will include a free buffet.

More details can be found below.

To book your free tickets please click here.

This event is funded by the EU ERDF Interreg IVa Channel project ADAFOR.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Biomass at Hever Castle - Nextgen Study Tour

Nextgen's current study tour programme include a visit to the biomass heating installation at Hever Castle in Kent.  The tour will take place on Wednesday November 6th.

We have visited the installation already and it is well worth seeing - a very impressive boiler room with a purpose built wood chip shed with a large storage yard.  This is certainly a masterclass in how to get biomass right and how self-supply wood chip can add enormous coherence to estate-level woodland management.

The details of the tour, from the Nextgen website, are as follows:

The stunning Hever Castle in Kent, once the childhood home to Anne Boleyn, is opening its  historic doors to delegates to show you how this iconic 13th century building is utilising its resources to generate sustainable heating solutions from biomass.

With rising fuel prices, the cost of heating buildings is a considerable challenge.  For owners of rural buildings and infrastructure, Biomass boilers offer a significant reduction in these costs.

This study tour will show you:

  • How best to achieve heating cost reductions of up to 80%
  • How to successfully apply for the Renewable Heat Incentive, to pay off your capital costs and deliver future profits
  • How to manage a biomass boiler system efficiently over the long term
  • How to ensure secure sustainable supplies for the lifetime of your boiler system
  • How to reduce your carbon footprint and boost the local economy

Hear from some of Britain’s foremost experts in Biomass installation and business planning, sourcing sustainable wood supply and RHI applications

Agenda for the day:

  • 09.45: Registration, tea & coffee
  • 10.00: Welcome and overview of the day’s agenda
  • 10.15: Overview of the Biomass and heating network project at Hever Castle: Duncan Leslie, CEO at Hever Castle 
  • 10.45: The business case for Biomass / DH in local, rural settings: Toby Douch, Douch Biomass
  • 11.15-11:30: Break
  • 11.30: A sleeping giant? The UK capacity for biomass - Sourcing and maintaining feedstock supplies: Stewart Boyle, Consultant to South East Wood Fuels 
  • 12.00: Getting your RHI application right first time: Speaker tbc, Ofgem
  • 12.30: The devil is in the detail: planning and permissions and plant design: Matt Scully, Rural Energy 
  • 13.00-13.45: Lunch
  • 14.00-16.30: Site visits

Bookings can be made here.

This Tour is in association with Douch Biomass & Rural Energy 

Woodland photography workshops

Monday, 21 October 2013

Timber and Wood Fuel Supply Chains - Kent Survey 2013

Since 2011 the Kent Downs Woodfuel Pathfinder has been working to promote sustainable woodland management, wood fuels and biomass heating.

As we are now half-way through our work programme we would like to turn our attention towards the supply of timber, particularly as the markets for woodfuel continue to improve.

Our main motivations for doing this are related to: 

  • The sustained demand for firewood for open fires and log stoves
  • The increasing demand for wood chip for use in biomass boilers
  • Proposals for a new biomass (wood chip) power station in East Kent

To help us gather up-to-date information on machinery, skills and the demand for new workers and apprentices we have developed an online survey targeted at businesses operating in the forestry sector.

The survey, which can be accessed by clicking here, will be to understand more about the forestry sector in the South East and will help direct our support package over the next two years.

The survey consists of around 20 questions and should take no more than five minutes to complete.

All information provided will be treated in the strictest of confidence. It will be used exclusively by the Kent Downs AONB for research purposes only.

The survey will be open for the remainder of 2013 so there is plenty of time to participate.  We will provide a summary of the responses in early 2014.

The survey covers a range of subjects, from machinery needs to skills and training.  It also includes some questions around apprentices, particularly as we are currently looking at how we can support new entrants into the forestry sector.  

If you require any support around the subjects of training or apprentices please don't hesitate to contact us on 01303 815 171 (or email

Friday, 18 October 2013

Free conference - Woodfuel production and grant support for land based and rural businesses

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Events in Sussex will highlight progress in wood fuel and biomass heating sectors

South East Wood Fuels, Douch Biomass and the CLA have announced two events to showcase new biomass heating installations in Sussex and to provide an update on the woodfuel and biomass heating sectors.

The first will take place on Friday October 18th at Laughton Lodge in East Sussex.  The district heating system at this site has recently been upgraded and a new boiler installed.  

On hand will be a range of RHI, woodfuel and biomass heating experts who will highlight recent developments in the sector.  The event also offers free 'surgeries' for those interested in undertaking a woodfuel or biomass heating project.

The second event takes place at Bakers Farm in West Sussex on Friday October 25th.  Both events are free.  To register please visit the following sites to book your place:

  1. Laughton Lodge - Oct 18th: Click here
  2. Bakers Farm - Oct 25th: Click here

Wednesday, 11 September 2013


Fuelwood are holding two open days to show and demonstrate the full range of wood processing machinery they stock, including:

  • AMR heavy duty 9t-28t vertical and horizontal Logsplitters
  • AMR SAT 4700 automatic rotary barrel Drum Saw cutting 1m split billets
  • Fuelwood Splitta 350 high volume netted logs
  • Fuelwood Splitta 400 automatic Logsplitter processing oversize rings and Arb waste
  • Fuelwood 4.5m Elevator NEW
  • Fuelwood Log Cleaning Device NEW
  • Fuelwood X-Frame Bagga for 1m3 log bags
  • Fuelwood Kindlet 6” kindling machine
  • Fuelwood Kindlet Pro variable length high volume kindling machine
  • Japa 355 affordable 14” Firewood Processor
  • Japa 700 sawblade Firewood Processor
  • Lucas Mill 1030 mobile sawmill

The event will be held at Claywood (Warwick) on Friday 27th & Saturday 28th September (10.00am – 4.00pm).

Please call 01926 484673 or register at

Also on display:
  • AMR heavy duty Winches 
  • Fuelwood Transaw 350 XL Firewood Processor with 3 Chain Deck
  • Japa Grapple
  • Japa Saw Dust Extractors NEW
  • Japa 305 BE road-towable Firewood Processor
  • Japa 385 Expert with Deck
  • Heizohack woodfuel Chipper HM4-300 
  • Mowi Skog 65 & 85 
  • Accessories - log decks, bagging chutes and systems

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Biomass sustainability criteria announced by UK Government

DECC has released details of the criteria that will be used to judge Renewables Obligation payments for electricity produced by biomass power stations.

Rather than repeat the press release we have included it below.

This is good news for the biomass industry in the UK.  There has been a lot of negative publicity recently and this new approach appears to set a clear route forward for biomass energy developers.

Of course these new rules are demanding and they will undoubtedly affect  projects >1MW.  However, we welcome these measures which should help ensure the role of biomass electricity in the UK's energy mix (and in meeting the 2020 renewables targets of course).

Press release:

From April 2015 biomass industry must show fuel is sustainable or lose financial support.

Biomass electricity will produce over 70% greenhouse gas savings compared to fossil fuel alternatives, under changes made by the government to ensure the sustainability of wood-fuel used to create energy.

From April 2015, the biomass industry – which is worth over £1bn in new investment and supports over 3,000 jobs – will be required to demonstrate their fuel is sustainable or lose financial support.

Greg Barker, Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change, said:

“The Coalition is committed to delivering clean, affordable and secure energy for consumers.

“This includes an important role for biomass power as part of the UK’s energy mix.

“The new criteria will provide the necessary investor certainty and, crucially, ensure that the biomass is delivered in a transparent and sustainable way.”

The tough new criteria for sustainable forest management are based on a range of issues such as:
  • sustainable harvesting rates,
  • biodiversity protection and
  • land use rights for indigenous populations.

Organisations who do not comply with the new requirements could see financial support withheld.

All generators of 1 Megawatt (MW) capacity or more using solid biomass or biogas feedstock will be required to demonstrate that they are meeting the criteria in order to claim support under the Renewables Obligation. This would cover around 98% of all biomass power generation in the UK.

We are also today introducing a new requirement for generators of 1MW capacity and above to provide an independent sustainability audit with their annual sustainability report.

Today’s announcement will help bring forward transitional biomass technologies such as coal to biomass conversions which are one of the quickest and most cost effective ways to help decarbonise the UK’s electricity supply.

To provide the certainty that investors and developers need there will be no further unilateral changes to the sustainability criteria before April 2027.

Notes for Editors:

  • By 2020 biomass generators of 1MW and above will have to meet a 200 kg CO2eq per MWh annual target (72% saving compared to the EU fossil fuel electricity average). This reduces further to a 180 kg CO2eq per MWh from 2025 (75% saving compared to the EU fossil fuel electricity average).
  • A threshold of 1MW and above covers around 98% of biomass power generation. The other 2% (those with a capacity between 50kW and 1MW) will be required to report against the criteria, but not to comply with it. Microgeneration (under 50kW) are not included in the scope.
  • Biomass is expected to make a significant contribution to delivering the UK’s 2020 renewable energy target. Around 38% of our renewable electricity comes from bioenergy.
  • Sustainable forest management criteria will be based on the Government’s UK Timber Procurement Policy Principles (or CPET - see
  • Mandatory sustainability criteria have already been introduced to the RO for bioliquids as required by the EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED).
  • We have introduced a cap of 400MW on the total new-build dedicated biomass capacity (excludes biomass with CHP and coal to biomass conversions) that can expect grandfathered support under the RO. We are using a notification process to allocate places within the cap. This is now open for applications for priority projects (that reached financial close by 20 August). Other projects will be able to apply from 11 September onwards.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Renewable Heat Incentive - latest results

The latest quarterly report on the Renewable Heat Incentive (Apr-Jun 2013) indicates that uptake of the scheme remains steady and total installed capacity under the scheme now exceeds 400 MW.

RHI installed capacity and payments - cumulative
There are now 1,789 accredited installations with a further 600 applications  at various stages of processing.  76% of installations are in England, 18% are in Scotland and the remainder are in Wales.

Biomass boilers remain the dominant technology type and comprise 93% of all accredited installations.  
Proportion of accredited installations by technology type

This latest report also provides some new information on recent audits that have been carries out by Ofgem.  These focused on compliance issues but were also carried out for fraud detection purposes.  The main findings were as follows:
  • Rates of non-compliance are high and this has led to payments being suspended in some cases.
  • The main issues relate to participants not maintaining fuel records for biomass installations, particularly where harvesting their own fuel, and the incorrect installation of heat meters
As a result of these findings Ofgem has commenced a desktop audit programme to complement site audits in order to verify ongoing obligations.

The advice is, therefore, to check that metering equipment has been installed correctly, primarily by checking meter installation manuals.  For biomass installations participants need to record the quantity and type of fuel used and the date of supply to the boiler (see template here).

Remember the date - 24th September

DECC recently announced important changes to the RHI non domestic
scheme which will be implemented on 24 September.  These include changes to metering and air quality requirements.

Simplifying metering requirements

If you are applying for RHI accreditation on or after the 24 September simplified metering requirements will apply:
  • In certain circumstances disregard heat loss from external pipework where the pipework is ‘properly insulated’ to the standards outlined in BS5422 and calculated in line with and EN ISO 12241.
  • Submit heat loss calculations in place of installing additional meters in such cases where doing so might be physically or financially overly burdensome
  • Only install meters which are necessary to calculate the ‘eligible heat output’ from the installation to enable the RHI payment to be calculated.
Biomass air quality requirement

Again, from September 24th a fully completed RHI emission certificate (or environmental permit) will be required to demonstrate compliance with new air quality requirements. 

For more information, including RHI emission certificate template, see here.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Domestic RHI - summary of scheme proposals

DECC has published its response to the consultation on the domestic version of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).  The response includes a lot of detail on the types of technology that will be supported, their 'performance' and the type of properties and tenure that will be eligible.

To assist readers we have produced a summary of the proposals as they stand.  This can be found here.

The proposals for biomass heating are of particular interest to this blog.  The main points of interest include:

  • The tariff for biomass has increased from 8.7 p/kWh (initially proposed in 2012) to 12.2 p/kWh.  Whilst this is slightly below the 13-15 p/kWh we would have liked to see it is clearly an improvement.  The final tariff is yet to be announced but presumably it will be well before the proposed scheme opening date of April 1st 2014.

  • The tariff will be paid over seven years according to deemed heat.  This is the heat load as determined by the EPC that is created during a Green Deal assessment which is a mandatory requirement.

  • Legacy systems installed since 15th July 2009 will also be eligible providing they were installed by an MCS accredited company.  
  • Biomass equipment will need to meet meet air quality standards in relation to particulate matter (PM) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx). Legacy installations, installed between 15th July 2009 and the launch of the scheme, will not need to meet this requirement.
  • A new requirement around fuel sustainability will be introduced for  biomass installations.  To be eligible for and continue to receive RHI support for a biomass system, fuel needs to be sourced from a supplier registered on an approved supplier list. Such a list will be set up ahead of the launch of the scheme and will be the same one that is being established for the non-domestic RHI scheme.
The final point on sustainability is interesting and has important implications for wood fuel suppliers. To be included on the list, DECC intends that fuel suppliers will have to meet two criteria from April 2014:

  • Supply fuel which complies with the greenhouse gas (GHG) lifecycle emissions target of achieving 60% GHG savings against the EU fossil fuel heat average, assuming a boiler efficiency of 70%.
  • Report their performance against the relevant land criteria from the following list (although compliance with the criteria will not initially be required):

Evidence of legality and sustainability can come in two forms:

  • Category A evidence is independent certification of the timber/ timber products by any of the forest certification schemes that meet the policy requirements (such as FSC and PEFC).
  • Category B evidence is alternative documentary evidence that provides assurance that the source is legal and sustainable.
Category A evidence is the 'belt and braces' approach and undoubtedly involves the procurement of external expertise from Forest Stewardship Council and the accredited certification bodies are authorised to issue FSC certificates.

The alternative is Category B evidence and you will be glad to hear that this includes use of the Forestry Commission's Woodland Planning Grant (WPG) that falls under the English Woodland Grant Scheme (EWGS).  

However, the WPG Category B option is open to owners with less than 100 hectares of woodland, and more than 3 hectares, and whose woodlands are not certified.  As such it is envisaged that owners with more than 100 hectares will pursue the Category A, full certification option.

As ever we would recommend a good read of the full DECC document to make sure you pick up all of the salient points.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Booking now open for the 2013 Surrey Hills Wood Fuel Conference

Monday, 8 July 2013

Latest results from Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) show steady uptake

Ofgem's latest set of results for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) paint a positive picture about the uptake of the World's first renewable heat incentive.  

Whilst the numbers overall are still small uptake accelerated during the first 15 months of the scheme and installed capacity approximately doubled every quarter.

At the end of March '13 there were 1,238 approved installations and a further 649 being processed.  Only eight applications had been rejected. Total installed capacity was 266 MW and these installations had generated 168 million kWhth.  Cumulative payments were £7.62m.

The technology split is still dominated by biomass (92%) with solar thermal and ground source heat pumps making up the majority of the remainder (3.9% and 3.4%, respectively).

The emergence of solar thermal as the second most installed technology under the RHI is interesting. It is not clear what the split is between stand-alone systems and those integrated with biomass systems. As Jamie Oliver would say biomass boilers and solar panels are "best friends" and the latter can make a useful contribution to the overall efficiency (and no doubt payback) of a biomass system.

The message overall, therefore, appears positive. We of course know that the RHI has already had to return some of its funds due to under-performance, but given the long lead-in time for biomass and its relative high capital cost it is perhaps not surprising that the situation is 'steady'.

In Kent installation activity for biomass boilers is again steady. Of the projects we know about around 2 MW of biomass heating capacity has come on-stream since December '12. These project at a range of scales but most are in the sub-200 kW range at the moment. Most are chip systems with local fuel supply.

RHI Developments

Whilst the policy overall is very much intact there have been one or two changes that are of interest:

  • Medium tariff (200-999 kW): This tariff was inflated on April 1st 2013 and then promptly deflated by 5% (which effectively brought the tariff back to its pre-April 1st level). This only has a minor impact on the attractiveness of the tariff which, in our opinion, remains very good.
  • Large tariff (1 MW+): This was doubled to 2.0p.
These tariff adjustments are fairly straightforward and only to represent some fine-tuning rather than a radical re-think or withdrawal of support.  The small tariff has remained unchanged to date.  The current tariff is shown below and can be found here

The Ofgem website indicates that the next tariff table will be published on September 15th. It is not known at this stage whether more changes are planned...we will keep an eye out.

Other developments include:


On 30 April 2013 the Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme (Amendment) Regulations 2013 came into effect. These regulations introduced:

  • A long term cost control mechanism, otherwise referred to as the degression mechanism.
  • removal of the provisions relating to the scheme suspension mechanism (Stand-by Budget Mechanism) introduced in the Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme (Amendment) Regulations 2012.
The degression mechanism enables reductions to be made to an individual tariff, or all tariffs, if certain requirements set out in the RHI (Amendment) Regulations are met. It aims to ensure that the non-domestic RHI does not exceed its fixed annual budgets by lowering tariffs to bring deployment down
in line with affordable levels.

Simplification of metering requirements

DECC is addressing issues raised by stakeholders about the complexity of metering requirements and the proportion of complex systems. DECC is addressing this by requiring that the installation only installs meters necessary for the RHI payment formula. This will allow heat loss from external
pipework to be disregarded in specific circumstances (ie if properly insulated). If it is either physically or financially problematic to install a heat meter, we will allow applicants to instead submit a heat loss calculation.

A number of industry associations are taking steps to develop RHI specific training and assessment programmes for those that wish to provide Independent Reports on Metering Arrangements (IRMA). In the interim the Building and Engineering Services Association has published a Guide to Good Practice for Heat Metering in the RHI.

Air quality (AQ) compliance

DECC is introducing requirements for all biomass burning installations to submit a valid certificate or an environmental permit with their application. This will need to show that the boiler complies with the required AQ limits. All applicants with biomass burning installations will now need to submit an RHI emission certificate or a valid environmental permit with their application. If an applicant is submitting an RHI emission certificate it will need to show that the boiler complies with the specified air quality limits.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Calling all owners & managers of Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites (“PAWS”)

If you own or manage “PAWS” woodland (Planted Ancient Woodland Site), the England Woodland Biodiversity Group (EWBG) would like to hear from you.

EWBG want to find out if you are considering restoring your woods (i.e. removing the plantation) to a native tree cover (or have already done so), as this is a great way to help woodland wildlife. 

They want to ask you about your approach to woodland restoration and what additional support you would find helpful. 

If you have any views please complete this online survey, the results from which will help identify future support (policy and practical) and the scale of the opportunity and challenges. 

The deadline for completed responses is 31st July 2013.

If you are unsure whether your woodland is a “PAWS” you can check here.  Use the Ancient Woodland dataset and search for your woodland. 

The EWBG comprises representatives from Government, NGO and private sector woodland interests, and aims to identify, explore and escalate issues of national concern to woodland & forest biodiversity.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Good Woods – Free Woodland Advice for Landowners and Managers

There are more than 3 million hectares of woodland in the UK, however in England alone it is estimated that more than 45% of our woodlands are either unmanaged or under-managed.

This has contributed to a decline in biodiversity, loss of amenity and skills, and poor routes to market for wood products. 

The Good Woods project will tackle these issues. This project is being delivered in Kent by the Kent Downs AONB Unit (except the High Weald area where the project is being delivered by the High Weald AONB Unit).

Woodland owners will receive a free visit from an experienced woodland management advisor who will help them understand the opportunities for their woodland, the steps they need to go through to get it into management and establish the first steps on the ‘myForest’ management system.

The ‘myForest’ website has been developed by The Sylva Foundation and helps to produce a Forestry Commission approved management plan simply and easily.

All advice is free and provided by experienced officers from the Countryside Partnerships in Kent.

If you would like to make the most of the woodland on your land, whether it is by selling timber, logs or chipwood to the local market, increasing its biodiversity or even investigating the potential for claiming Renewable Heat Incentive by installing a biomass boiler on your property then this could be the perfect first step. 

To find out more and whether you are eligible for a visit please contact:

Mike Phillips
01303 815170 

Good Woods is a groundbreaking project aiming to breathe new life into UK woodlands. B&Q has teamed up with sustainability charity BioRegional and forestry charity The Sylva Foundation to revive woodlands to provide environmental, social and economic benefits. 

For more information please visit the Sylva foundation website

Friday, 21 June 2013

New report available: A comparison of the woodfuel markets in Northern France and South East England

The Kent Downs Woodfuel Pathfinder has released a new report that looks at the current woodfuel situation in northern France and south east England.

The report is the culmination of the Pathfinder's involvement in the ERDF funded Interreg project MULTIFOR (or Multi-Functional Forestry).  It aims to highlight the similarities and differences in the woodland and woodfuel sectors in northern France and south east England and summarises information gathered during a series of cross-border activities involving French and English project partners (namely the Kent Downs AONB Unit in Kent and La Maison Du Bois and CRPF in Nord Pas De Calais and Picardie).

The report highlights a number of interesting details about the woodfuel sectors in Nord pas de Calais and Kent and provides a number of conclusions that should be of interest to a wide range of readers.

A key finding is the fact that over 80% of the privately owned woodland in northern France is actively managed.  This compares to only around 46% in Kent.  Also, the report found that silvicultural practice is far better developed in France.

In contrast the report found that the woodfuel supply chain and biomass heating sectors are much better developed in the UK where there is a far higher uptake of modern wood heating systems.  This is caused by the UK's adoption of a tariff-based subsidy for renewable heat generation (via the Renewable Heat Incentive) in contrast to France where a low-level grants-based approach is still used.

The forestry training facility, or 'marteloscope', at
Bois de la Belle Epine (Somme)

Astrid de Sainte Maresville (Maison Du Bois)
speaking at the MULTIFOR conference

Overall the reports provides a good summary of the woodfuel situation on both sides of the English Channel.

We thank partners at La Maison Du Bois and CRPF for their help in producing this report without whom some of the more insightful findings would have been missed.

The report can be viewed and downloaded here.  Any feedback on the report would be welcomed.

Woodfuel (bois energie) project partners at the MULTIFOR conference in Rouen in April 2013