Sustainability standards for electricity generation from biomass

How you must report on sustainability for biomass and biogas electricty generation, if you generate over 50KW.


We are committed to making sure the biomass we use for energy is sustainable, ie that it:

  • delivers real greenhouse gas (GHG) savings
  • is produced in a way that does not give rise to deforestation or degradation of habitats or loss of biodiversity
  • is cost effective and that its production and use does not give rise to unintended consequences

This is why we are introducing mandatory reporting requirements for solid biomass and biogas under the Renewables Obligation (RO) and the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).

Biomass sustainability reporting

Since 1 April 2011, biomass electricity generators over 50KW have been required to report against the following sustainability criteria:

  • minimum 60% GHG emission saving for electricity generation using solid biomass or biogas relative to fossil fuel
  • general restrictions on using materials sourced from land with high biodiversity value or high carbon stock – including primary forest, peatland, and wetlands

Following a 2-year transition period, we intend that from October 2013 generating stations of 1 megawatt (MW) capacity and above will be required to meet the criteria in order to receive Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) under the RO.

This transition period allows generators time to familiarise themselves with the sustainability criteria and reporting process.

We intend to take a complementary approach under the forthcoming RHI.

We are also consulting to further improve our sustainability criteria by bringing in tightening GHG emission trajectories and sustainable forest management criteria for woodfuel.

We have introduced a freely available online GHG lifecycle assessment tool - the UK Biomass & Biogas Carbon Calculator. This allows generators and others to assess the emissions associated with biomass electricity and heat generation. It looks at the emissions across the bio-energy lifecycle from cultivation of biomass to processing and transport.

In addition, the Office of the Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) has produced guidance for generators using solid biomass and biogas on how to comply with the sustainability criteria.

Bioliquids sustainability criteria

Bioliquids (ie liquid biomass fuels used for heat and electricity generation) must comply with the sustainability criteria set out in the Renewable Energy Directive in order to count towards the directive’s targets and be eligible for financial support.

The criteria are:

  • minimum GHG saving of 35% compared to fossil fuel (the minimum GHG savings is to rise to 50% in 2017 and 60% in 2018 for new installations)
  • the minimum GHG savings is to rise to 50% in 2017 and 60% in 2018 for new installations
  • not be produced on land of high biodiversity or high carbon stocks

Ofgem has produced guidance for generators using bioliquids on how to comply with the sustainability criteria and for independent auditors on how to verify generators’ compliance with those criteria.

Published 22 January 2013