Fossil fuels apart, biomass is the only other naturally-occurring, energy-containing carbon resource known that is large enough to be used as a substitute for fossil fuels. Biomass includes plant matter, vegetation and trees, as well as waste biomass such as municipal solid waste (MSW), municipal biosolids (sewage) and animal wastes (manures), forestry and agricultural residues, and certain types of industrial wastes. Unlike fossil fuels, biomass is renewable in the sense that only a short period of time is needed to replace what is used as an energy resource. Biomass is also held to be "carbon neutral", in that the amount of carbon it absorbs while growing is the same as the amount it produces when burned.
Scotland has a potentially huge wood fuel resource arising from its forests and associated timber resource (more information can be found at the Use Wood Fuel website ). Biomass energy could be extremely valuable in Scotland, given its lack of intermittency, its ability to meet local and small-scale energy needs and its potential to provide and sustain jobs. Biomass has a big part to play in the Renewable Heat Action Plan for Scotland , published on 5 November 2009.
The Scottish Government strongly advocates the deployment of biomass in heat-only or combined heat and power schemes, generally prioritised in off gas-grid areas, at a scale appropriate to make best use of both the available heat, and of local supply. Such siting and scaling of development is vital if we are to stand any chance of meeting our 2020 renewable heat target which depends heavily on biomass. Further reasoning on this is set out in the Draft Electricity Generation Policy Statement .
The Scottish Government provides some free advice for the installation of biomass heating. Householders and small businesses can get help and information about finance options by calling the Energy Saving Scotland Advice Network on 0800 512 012. Not-for-profit community based organisations can get advice under the Community And Renewable Energy Scheme by calling 01349 860120.
In November 2014, during a stakeholder meeting on biomass, chaired by the Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism, a need was identified for guidance to be produced for local authorities on air quality and biomass. The purpose of this guidance would be to pull together information on existing guidance and legislation, to help support local authority Environmental Health Officers and Planners in their assessment of planning applications for new biomass boiler installations. Consequently, this guidance was produced.
In addition, the results of the final round of the Scottish Biomass Heat Scheme were announced on 23 December 2010. Future support for biomass heat projects will primarily be by way of the forthcoming Renewable Heat Incentive, which is being introduced at a UK level.