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Forum for Renewable Energy Development in Scotland - Promoting and Accelerating the Market Penetration of Biomass Technology in Scotland




69. BEG believes that co-firing, in particular in existing coal- fired power stations, has considerable potential to act as a catalyst to the development of a viable biomass electricity industry within Scotland. Co-firing biomass with fossil fuels gives an immediate reduction in emissions (particularly in CO2); it utilises the existing investment in currently operating coal-fired power stations; it utilises existing infrastructure which capitalises on rail transport; it utilises existing grid connections; and, provides the security of electricity supply from proven and reliable generation plants. All these advantages are further supported by the fact that the benefits are immediate - shorter lead in times are necessary whilst planning permissions are obtained and new road and rail links are designed and built.

70. The intention is to achieve a balanced development profile stimulated initially by co-firing during which period substantial investment in mainstream power generation and CHP would be created and which would come on stream as co-firing demand diminished in the period beyond 2010. Concurrently, a steady expansion of biomass demand for smaller scale domestic and district heating could then be established.


Notes on Diagram:-

  • Co-firing: Stimulated by ROCs. An early start enabled by minimal capital investment is limited by the availability of energy crops. The early start stimulates development of the bio-fuel supply chain. Beyond 2016 the future is uncertain
  • Biomass generated electricity: Stimulated by ROCs. Investment is very large scale and plants need time to become fully operational. Depending on location may be able to utilise the supply chains developed by co-firing. Beyond 2025 the future is uncertain
  • CHP: Stimulated by ROCs. Investment is large but not as large as plants generating electricity only. Depending on location may be able to utilise the supply chains developed for co-firing. In the longer term less electricity is produced to the grid as electricity market futures are uncertain
  • Bio-heat: It takes time to grow the market for bio-heat and incentives will be required. Once established, this form of energy becomes popular and is served by a fully developed supply chain and state-of-the-art technology for domestic and district heat applications
  • The rules governing co-firing of biomass and fossil fuel are set out in the Renewables Obligation (Scotland) Order 2004 and are intended to stimulate the growing of energy crops. However, as indicated earlier in this report, the potential for growing energy crops in Scotland may be limited by the availability of suitable land and the immediate availability of standing forestry. As a result, the biomass sector in Scotland is likely to be initially built upon wood fuel, although other crops may well assume increasing significance as the industry develops. Energy crops are currently defined for the purposes of the GBROs as "meaning a plant crop planted after 31 December 1989 and grown primarily for the purpose of being used as fuel". BEG believes that, given Scotland's abundant forestry resource, this material, appropriately defined and grown to a certain standard, should also be used for the purposes of co-firing. This timber is a primary natural resource, the harvesting of which is good for Scotland's economy and population. The location of the crop is relatively close to the power stations (particularly compared to imported timber, and exotics such as olive and nut wastes); and it provides the opportunity for an immediate reduction in CO2 levels. The alternative of newly planted energy crops would at the very least have a 4 year lead in time from planting to the harvesting of the first commercial crop. BEG believes, therefore, that an amendment should be made to the definition of "energy crops" in the ROS to include all material derived from any woodland managed to the UK Woodland Assurance Standard; the exact wording of the amendment to be determined by the Scottish Executive following consultation.
  • As mentioned in paragraph 66 above, the issues surrounding the use of blended fuel in power stations need to be resolved urgently, if co-firing is to maximise its positive impact on the biomass sector.


  • The Scottish Executive should consult on amending the definition of energy crops in the Renewables Obligation (Scotland) Order 2004 to include material derived from any sustainably managed woodland, i.e., a woodland certified to the UK Woodland Assurance Standard.