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Emission limits for Renewable Heat Incentive announced

The government’s Renewable Heat Incentive scheme will include air quality requirements for new biomass facilities from no later than the end of 2013

Air quality requirements were announced by the government on Wednesday (February 27) as part of changes to the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme (RHI).

The new requirements will mean that proposed facilities, such as wood-burning biomass energy plants, will need to meet specific emissions limits for particulate matter and nitrogen oxides in order to qualify for government incentives.

Greg Barker

DECC minister Greg Barker announced changes to the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme this week

According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), these requirements will ‘significantly reduce’ the negative health impacts of the RHI, producing an estimated benefit of £184 million in 2020 and £3,368.6 million over the lifetime of the policy.

The RHI was launched in November 2011 to reward organisations for generating renewable heat and biomethane gas which can be injected back into the national grid through a variety of technologies.

However, DECC announced several changes to the RHI for commercial, industrial and community organisations this week following the end of a consultation in September 2012 on improving the scheme.

According to DCC, although the impact of biomass heat generation on air quality is small at the moment, the uptake of biomass installations driven by RHI subsidy is expected to increase and there are currently no requirements for plants to have air pollution abatement equipment installed.

But the new RHI requirements will set emission limits from new installations at 30 grams per gigajoule for particulate matter PM10 and 150 grams per gigajoule for nitrogen oxides with evidence that these limits are being met to be sent to regulatory body Ofgem. These requirements are then set to be reviewed again by the government in July 2015.

In its announcement of the changes to the scheme, DECC said the RHI was “essential to help us meet our legally binding renewables targets and is crucial as we move towards our goal of reducing our carbon emissions from heat. The action we will take on biomass sustainability and air quality will provide the transparency, longevity and certainty needed to secure investment in biomass heat at all scales while ensuring that we deliver real greenhouse gas reductions and protect our environment, both at a global and local level.”

Other RHI changes

Other changes to the RHI announced on Wednesday include flexible tariffs to control the budget of the scheme, sustainability requirements for new and existing biomass installations, tariff reviews, and the simplification of metering requirements.

Air quality requirements will form part of the RHI by autumn 2013, subject to Parliamentary process, but no later than the end of 2013. Biomass sustainability requirements will come into force in April 2014.

DECC minister, Greg Barker, said: “I am fully committed to ensuring our Renewable Heat Incentive helps as many organisations as possible get on board with a range of exciting sources of renewable heat, and at the same time stays within its means.”

He added: “This is however just the first step on our journey to safeguard longevity, provide certainty to industry and sustain growth under this scheme. We are also continuing to explore whether the tariffs we offer are set at the best levels to encourage further uptake, looking at how we can open up the scheme to new technologies, and considering the right approach to encourage householders to invest in renewable heat.”

“We are continuing to work with industry and others on our plans and will be making announcements about our proposals for support as soon as possible.”

In February it was revealed by Defra minister Richard Benyon in parliament that health impacts from particulate matter PM2.5 emissions as a result of biomass combustion are expected to cost the UK £215 million in 2020 (see airqualitynews.com story).

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