What is Biomass

Biomass is organic material derived from plants and animals. Biomass energy is, therefore, produced by burning these biological material to form a renewable and sustainable source of fuel. Of all the biomass material, wood still remains the most commonly used form in biomass boilers. Biomass is a renewable energy source and can be anything from energy crops to agricultural or forestry residues and biogenic waste. Biomass has been used as fuel for tens of thousands of years. Development of biomass applications has made great strides in recent decades. There are now a variety of methods for converting biomass into heat and electricity, from pellets for household heating to waste used to produce electricity in commercial power plants. We can offer a large choice of systems from a range of manufacturers. Feel free to browse through some of our product range or give us a call to discuss your requirements and our team will be able to hand-pick the best product for your project.

Biomass is subsidised by the UK government

The United Kingdom government has a target to provide 15% renewable energy by 2020, and is bound by EU law to do so. The government predicts most of the overall target will be met through renewable electricity. Subsidies are the main instrument used to try and meet this target. There are currently three subsidy schemes for renewable electricity that apply across the UK:

Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs):

Those are available for small-scale generation, up to a capacity of a 5 MW, or 2kW for micro combined heat and power using bioenergy. Feed-in tariffs have been particularly important for solar PV, but they have hardly ever been used for biomass;

Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs):

Any electricity generating project classed as renewable automatically qualifies for ROCs, provided that it is commissioned by March 2017 (with a limited extension of that period in some cases). This includes all biomass power plants provided that they meet the sustainability and greenhouse gas standards discussed above.

So far, ROCs have been by far the biggest driver behind the expansion of biomass electricity in the UK. Under the Renewables Obligation, electricity companies are obliged to supply a percentage of their electricity from renewables, which increases year on year. A penalty is imposed on those suppliers who do not meet the targets. Correspondingly, Ofgem issues ROCs to electricity generators for every unit of eligible renewable electricity which they supply. The market value of ROCs varies slightly. On average, one ROC was worth £42.69 in 2015.

Different renewable electricity technologies are eligible for different amounts of ROCs. In 2015/16, coal-to-biomass conversion attracts one ROC per MWh. So to calculate how much subsidy a biomass-burning power plant attracts, one has to multiply the number of Megawatt hours generated per year by the number of ROCs for which the particularly technology is eligible.

Energy suppliers pass the cost of ROCs onto customers via a surcharge on electricity bills. The government estimated the total surcharge for ROCs as £36.00 a year out of an average annual electricity bill of £627 a year – however that includes ROCs for wind and solar projects which are genuinely renewable and low-carbon.

Contracts for Difference (CfDs):

CfDs were introduced through the Energy Act 2013 as part of the then governmentʼs Energy Market Reform. A CfD takes the form of a ‘strike priceʼ. This is a fixed price which generators of renewable electricity (as well as nuclear power), are guaranteed per unit of electricity. Strike prices are substantially higher than the market price for the electricity. The difference between the strike price and the market price is the subsidy. There are two main differences between ROCs and CfDs:

From April 2014 to March 2017, companies generating renewable electricity can apply either for ROCs or for a CfD. If they are refused a CfD then they can still apply for ROCs instead. However, they cannot get both ROCs and a CfD for the same scheme.

From April 2017 onwards, ROCs will no longer be available for new schemes (though there are provisions for extending this period for schemes already under construction at that time). Companies which already receive ROCs will continue to do so until aaaa, but new ones have to apply for a CfD instead.

CfDs are awarded through a competitive process, in which companies have to put a closed bid for the lowest strike price they are happy to accept into an auction. The lowest proposals are then chosen. Before each auction, the government announces which types of schemes (i.e. which technology groups) can compete. There may be separate auctions for different technology groups at the same time. However the first awards of CfDs, made in 2014, were not subject to competition, and strike prices for those awards had been set by the government in advance.

So far, CfDs have been awarded to three large biomass electricity projects:

(Source - Bio Fuel Watch)

Here Are Some FAQ's

  • What exactly is biomass?
    • In the context of energy, the EU defines biomass as “the biodegradable fraction of products, waste and residues from biological origin from agriculture (including vegetable and animal substances), forestry and related industries including fisheries and aquaculture, as well as the biodegradable fraction of industrial and municipal waste” (Renewable Energy Directive, Article 2(e). Biomass refers to any matter derived from organisms which are or recently were alive. The word ‘biomassʼ is commonly used to describe biomass used for energy, such as wood, straw, or grasses.

  • How is biomass used?
    • People have used biomass for heating and cooking for thousands of years – if you have a fireplace in your house, or have ever cooked over a campfire, you have used biomass. With todayʼs technology, plant materials can be used to generate electricity, heat, or liquid fuels for motor vehicles that have substantially lower environmental impacts than traditional fossil fuels.

  • What are the benefits of using biomass for energy generation?
    • As with many other renewable energy sources, biomass is capable of simultaneously addressing the nationʼs energy, environmental, and economic needs. Increased use of biomass for energy would lead to reduced greenhouse gas emissions, reduced dependence on foreign oil, an improved balance of trade, an improved rural economy, and the creation of a major new UK industry with the potential to employ tens of thousands.

  • Why is the government rewarding payback through the RHI?
    • The Government is rewarding payback through the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) to householders and businesses who install biomass boilers. In order to reach its EU targets of carbon reduction, the Government is being particularly proactive with this process as if it does not meet these targets then the fines which would be imposed by the EU would far and away exceed any amounts given to UK householders and businesses under the RHI.

  • Are there different types of biomass fuel?
    • There are several different forms of biomass fuel and here at Total Biomass weʼre installing many different types of boilers which can handle an array of biomass fuel. Logs, Pellets, Wood chip and Wood waste can all be used as biomass fuels. One of our preferential sources of Biomass is wood pellets as they are clean, easy to store, handle and source. In addition, once “fed” with pellets, wood pellet boilers can run with minimum effort and maximum output.

  • Will there be lots of cleaning and maintenance with a biomass boiler?
    • No. We recommend that Biomass boilers are maintained around once a year (this obviously depends on which biomass boiler you have and how much usage it has) Cleaning of the boiler, again, depending on usage, is about every few weeks. Cleaning takes, on average, a-aa minutes to complete for a small household boiler and slightly longer for a large commercial appliance.

  • How is biomass subsidised in the UK?
    • The United Kingdom government has a target to provide 15% renewable energy by 2020, and is bound by EU law to do so. The government predicts most of the overall target will be met through renewable electricity. Subsidies are the main instrument used to try and meet this target. There are currently three subsidy schemes for renewable electricity that apply across the UK. (See main text for more info)

ETA 20 - 500Kw Boilers

ETA 20 - 500Kw Boilers

Weʼve chosen Austrian-based ETA to be one of our exclusive supplier of small and medium sized biomass boilers. ETA has been manufacturing class leading biomass boilers since 1998 from their state of the art production facility with a fantastic reputation for reliability.

Linka 100 - 5000Kw Boilers

Linka 100 - 5000Kw Boilers

Linka was founded in 1978 in the wake of the global oil crisis. Since the beginning they have focused on the development and optimisation of environmentally friendly forms of energy based on biomass. We have used several 1000Kw Linka boilers for our clients and we are more than happy to recommend Linka to our clients.

KSM 11 - 1000Kw Boilers

KSM 11 - 1000Kw Boilers

KSM has been established in Denmark since 1994, led by their founder Jens Mogensen. KSM manufacture RHI compliant biomass boilers from 11kW to 950kW, suitable for all applications below 1MW. All KSM boilers are fully electrically assembled and tested at the factory. KSM boilers are up to 92% efficient and can be installed under the RHI scheme.

Gilles - 180 - 1400Kw Boilers

From the small pellet and wood chip boiler (12.5Kw to 150Kw) to industrial boilers from 180Kw to 1.400 Kw Gilles can cover all needs.

RHI Scheme

To help you to join this green revolution, the UK Government are rewarding you by exempting you from taxes such as the Climate Change Levy. You are also paid for every kwh of heat you generate from biomass, from the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme. These payments are index linked to inflation and they’re guaranteed for 20 years.

Find out more about the RHI Scheme