Centrica pulls out of two dedicated UK biomass electricity projects
The UK's dedicated biomass industry was dealt a severe blow on Wednesday with "Big Six" utility Centrica's decision to withdraw planning applications for projects at Roosecote and Glanford Brigg in northern England.
The two plants had a proposed combined capacity of 217MW.
Centrica blamed the move on insufficient government support for dedicated biomass plants. "Recent clarification on the regulatory framework relating to dedicated biomass plants indicates a preference for co-firing and coal conversion to biomass," the company said in a statement.
A new cap imposed on the total number of allowable renewable obligation certificate (ROC) subsidies for dedicated biomass makes it impossible to make an investment decision on a project with a 20-year life span, a Centrica spokesman said. "Suppliers will be limited as to how many ROCs they can submit in a given year. If there are too many biomass facilities, the ROC prices will collapse," he added.
The head of lobby group the Renewable Energy Association, Gaynor Hartnell, said the government seemed to have an "institutional bias" against new biomass power projects.
"Biomass is an economic and baseload source of renewable power. With a capacity crunch looming in 2015, government should be doing its utmost to encourage such shovel-ready projects," Hartnell said.
Centrica also said it would permanently shut its open cycle gas turbine (OCGT) plant at Roosecote, the future of which has been under review for several months (see EDEM 26 July 2012). The company spokesman said another OCGT at Peterborough was still under review. However, it said "the potential for operating in the contract market is still there".
Meanwhile, companies such as independent generator Drax and utility RWE are pressing ahead with plans to convert existing coal-fired generators to co-fired biomass facilities. Earlier this month, the UK government announced grandfathering arrangements to facilitate the conversion of coal plants to co-fired biomass (see EDEM 5 October 2012).
Co-fired biomass plants must use sustainable fuels to produce 90% of their output. Dedicated biomass plants must deliver a 60% reduction on fossil fuel generation over the full life cycle of the fuel, from planting to combustion. KB
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