HL Deb 22 March 2004 vol 659 cc84-5WA
Lord Oxburgh

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether electricity generators, in co-firing biomass fuel, face any restrictions on where they must source that fuel, in order for the electricity generated to qualify for renewables obligation certificates; and [HL1859]

Whether, under the terms of the renewables obligation, as proposed to be amended by the draft Renewables Obligation (Amendment) Order 2004, electricity generated from imported co-fired biomass fuel will be eligible for renewables obligation certificates; and, if so, whether they have made any projection of (a) the amount of fuel that will be imported per annum, and (b) its likely countries of origin; and [HL1860]

Whether they have made any calculation of the transportation cost, in terms of average carbon-equivalent emissions per MWh of electricity generated, of importing biomass fuel for co-firing. [HL1861]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville

Electricity generated from biomass is eligible for renewable obligation certificates whether the fuel is domestic or imported. This will not change as a result of the 2004 amendments. However, we do expect the amount of such fuels to decline as the amount of home grown energy crops increases. DRAX power station has recently announced trials of UK-sourced biomass for its co-firing; it had previously used imported fuel.

It is important to remember that modifications made to the rules on the co-firing of biomass with fossil fuels are the Government's transitional move towards enhancing the prospects for the development of energy crops. When we consulted on changes to the co-firing rules in 2003, we published a study made by Ilex Energy Consulting which analysed several scenarios which took into account the potential sourcing of energy crops from outside the UK and recognised that some biomass fuels would be imported.

The renewables obligation is a market mechanism and the use of imported rather than domestic fuels is a matter for the market. Any restriction on fuel would not be permissible under international trade rules and could also deprive generators of a source of fuel, some of which is a waste with no other end use. We are aware some generators are using imported olive cake and palm husks.

With generators free to obtain their biomass from any source, and regarding some of the information as commercially sensitive, it is not possible to make a reliable estimate of the level of imports of their sources.