Government to tighten biomass incentive to tackle air pollution

The government’s Department for Business has outlined plans to tighten its incentive scheme for biomass-burning boilers, in order to cut particulate matter air pollution.

Launched for consultation last week – the plans centre around tightening up the requirements for support under its Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).

The RHI offers subsidies for biomass burning boilers

Through the RHI, the government offers subsidies for the installation of domestic and commercial biomass boilers, such as those burning wood pellets as a form of renewable heat.

According to the government, while the majority of biomass installations supported through the RHI are not in urban areas – a ‘small but significant proportion’ have been accredited in on-grid, urban areas, “and will thus be contributing to urban air pollution”.

Consequently, proposals launched for consultation last week, which would apply in England, Scotland and Wales – would see support only limited to biomass installations located in areas that are not located on the gas grid

Emissions

Additionally, the consultation also seeks views on whether maintenance checks are necessary for existing and new installations to ensure that they meet emissions standards, in response to concerns that some plants may be burning wet or contaminated wood leading to higher emissions.

In its consultation documents, the Department for Business stated: “The more stringent targets that we have set for 2020 and 2030 aim to cut the harm to human health by half. The government’s draft Clean Air Strategy, published in May 2018, set out an ambitious package of measures focussing on the major remaining sources of pollution.

“Burning biomass in boilers, such as those supported through the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), contributes to airborne pollution. They produce fine smoke particles and other toxic air pollutants including benzene, formaldhyde, acrolein and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

“Although biomass boilers are significantly cleaner than burning solid fuel on open fires or in stoves, they still produce much higher levels of particulate matter than gas-or oil-fired alternatives.”

The consultation is the latest proposal to come forward from the government’s Clean Air Strategy, which aims to tackle emissions of pollutants from a range of non-transport sources, including solid fuel burning.

Other areas of action being targeted by ministers include placing restrictions on retailers over the sale of wet wood as a fuel for household heating as well as standards for solid fuels to reduce sulphur content (see airqualitynews.com story).

The consultation on the proposals runs until 27 November.

Related Links
Renewable Heat Incentive: biomass combustion in urban areas – Consultation