Sustainability requirements for supplying and using woodfuel

How to demonstrate that woodfuel supplied for Renewables Obligations and Renewable Heat Incentive is from legal and sustainable sources.

Sustainability criteria under Renewables Obligation and Renewable Heat Incentive

To increase and accelerate the use of renewable energy, including the use of woodfuel, the UK government has introduced several schemes including the:

  • Renewables Obligation (RO), which provides incentives for large-scale renewable electricity generation by requiring UK suppliers to source a proportion of their electricity from eligible renewable sources.
  • Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), which pays commercial, industrial, public, not-for-profit, community and domestic generators of renewable heat.

Check how to ensure that your fuel meets sustainability criteria under the RO and RHI schemes.

Timber Standard for Heat and Electricity

For woodfuel, the land criteria are outlined in the UK Timber Standard for Heat and Electricity.

Compliance with the timber standard

Woodfuel meets the timber standard if it originates from an independently verifiable legal and sustainable source and you have appropriate documentation to prove it.

Currently, the timber standard draws upon the principles set under the Timber Procurement Policy requirements, but further explanation on the timber standard have been developed by Central Point of Expertise on Timber (CPET).

CPET has developed three woodfuel guidance documents which set out the land criteria for those producing heat and electricity from woodfuel:

  • woodfuel advice note
  • consignment and mass balance approach
  • risk based regional assessment: a checklist approach

If you use woodfuel and already report on progress towards meeting the RO and RHI requirements, you need to comply with the ‘land criteria’ requirements in 2015. The practical guidance documents currently being developed will help you know how to comply with the upcoming requirements.

Information on collecting evidence for woodfuel

Evidence that the woodfuel originates from a legal and sustainable source can be provided through:

  • the use of independent certification of the wood by any of the forest certification schemes that cover the sustainability requirements, together with the evidence of legality as required by the EU Timber Regulation
  • the form of alternative/bespoke documentary evidence, including the use of the mass balance approach that provides sufficient assurance that the source of the wood is legal and sustainable

Reporting against sustainability criteria

Whilst CPET will provide advice on the timber standard, decisions regarding the administration of the RO and RHI schemes (including accreditation, Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) issue and RHI payment, compliance with the sustainability criteria, etc) remain with Ofgem. For up to date information on the RO and RHI schemes, go to Ofgem website.

The RHI Biomass Suppliers List, is a list of sustainable fuels that RHI participants can use to show they meet the criteria.

You can find information from the government information centre for the use of biomass for energy in the UK.

The Forestry Commission has an interactive web-based application that enables you to request the potentially available woodfuel resource in Great Britain by geographic region, type of woodfuel resource or various classes of resource.

CPET has developed a guidance document for UK growers, woodland owners and managers on sustainable forest management, known as the CPET Growers Guide, on what they need to know about regarding the UK government Timber Procurement Policy; the EU Timber Regulation; and supplying woodfuel to the renewable energy and heat markets.

Commitment to renewable sources

The UK is legally committed to meeting 15% of the UK’s energy demand from renewable sources by 2020. Achieving this will help the UK meet its energy security and carbon reduction objectives.

Under both the RHI and RO, if you are a renewable energy generator, you must demonstrate that the biomass used to generate renewable energy (including woodfuel) meets certain sustainability criteria regarding land use and greenhouse gas emissions. In the case of woodfuel the new sustainability / ‘land criteria’ specify that woodfuel must originate from legal and sustainable forest sources. Details of the RO’s sustainable forest management criteria, for the use of feedstocks that are virgin wood or made from virgin wood were introduced in April 2014.

Under the Renewable Heat Incentive, from Spring 2015, you have to ensure that your fuel meets sustainability criteria including a lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions target, and land criteria in line with those under the Renewables Obligation. RHI participants: use the Biomass Suppliers List, an online list of sustainable fuels, to comply with the criteria, or alternatively non-domestic participants will be able to self-report to Ofgem.

Find information on Northern Ireland’s RHI scheme and information on Scotland’s RHI scheme.

Published 3 July 2014