As the biomass market evolves so must sustainability policy

WHA member blog by Mark Appleton, Commercial Director, Forest Fuels

WHA member blog by Mark Appleton, Commercial Director, Forest Fuels

Markets evolve and change. That is never truer than in the case of the UK biomass market. Before the introduction of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) in November 2011 it was a pretty small sector, and an insignificant part of UK renewables. The RHI created a boom with numerous new market entrants and investment in the technology. Then we saw the market develop in 2013-14, with changes to the RHI, principally around air quality, coupled with new sustainability criteria for RHI certified wood – namely the introduction of the Biomass Suppliers List (BSL).

The BSL ensures that all wood fuel registered meets the sustainability requirements of the RHI scheme. Suppliers have to apply to be members of the scheme meaning their wood must be legal, sustainable and within prescribed levels of CO2 from the supply chain. Customers must record BSL numbers attributed to every single separate wood fuel delivery in order to receive RHI payments.

In addition to ensuring sustainability standards, the BSL should also be a vital support to the industry in making the case to the Government that ‘wood is good’ in relation to renewable heat. However, whilst the principle is good, the scheme has not evolved with the market, and its structures and remit have proved onerous for both customers and industry. In fact, the only significant change has been that industry now finance the BSL rather than government. In short, I believe the BSL needs to be more responsive and accountable to its members, to remain relevant and effective.

In order to do this, I think it is time for a full review of the BSL to ensure it achieves what it was set out to do. I would like to help effect that change, which is why I’m standing for election as a member of the BSL Advisory Panel which closes on Monday July 9th.

Having spoken to other members of the BSL, there appears to be some consensus that the processes and structures could be reviewed. For example, every time a fuel suppler wants to produce or sell a new product they must apply, and pay for, a BSL number. This can create hundreds of numbers for suppliers and the subsequent administration to go with it. This is not only time consuming for the supplier but the customer too. This can create a situation where a customer can have multiple deliveries of fuel with multiple different numbers, which all have to be recorded separately in order to receive RHI payments.

The biomass market is still developing, and it is important to ensure that current regulations are working with, rather than against, industry. Going forwards, a simplification of BSL processes could reduce costs and red tape, in turn making the scheme more effective. Whether it is evolution or a complete reform, it would benefit customers and suppliers to explore options to make the BSL fit for purpose in today’s biomass market.

You can vote in the election for the BSL Advisory Board Panel by downloading and completing the BSL Voting Form and returning it to