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Update 17/01/18 Amendments 297 and 356 passed.

Charles Moore, Analyst at Sandbag commented:
“Today’s vote is a first step at cutting down the biomass subsidies that support coal. However, there is much more work to be done. To speed up the coal phase-out, we must ban subsidies for biomass-coal co-firing entirely.”

 

Across a number of EU member states, biomass subsidies are directly and indirectly supporting coal generation. Next Wednesday the European Parliament has an opportunity in the Renewable Energy Directive to tighten up the rules regarding the burning of biomass for power, despite efforts from the ENVI committee to water down the legislation. These stricter rules could help reduce the co-firing of biomass with coal. With coal phase-outs gaining momentum across Europe, now is the time to stop subsidising it.

MEPS should vote for Amendment 297 & 356 to Article 26. Paragraph 8. of the Renewable Energy Directive. MEPs should reject Amendment 317 as a further attempt to water down the legislation.   

Below we have simplified the positions of the European Commission, the ENVI committee and the plenary amendments and explained the problems in the ENVI text that the amendments sets out to repair.

 

Original European Commission Text.

  • No subsidies for electricity generation from biomass in units over 20MW thermal unless it is burnt in high-efficiency cogeneration. Comes into force 3 years after adoption of the directive.

ENVI Amendment

  • No subsidies for electricity generation from biomass in units over 20MW electrical unless it is burnt in high-efficiency cogeneration or produced in installations which have been converted from solid fossil fuels fired plants. Comes into force 3 years after adoption of the directive.

Plenary Amendments 297 & 356

  • No subsidies for electricity generation from biomass in units over 20MW thermal unless it is burnt in high-efficiency cogeneration or produced in electricity only installations, which achieve a net-electrical efficiency of 40% and do not use fossil fuels. Comes into force 1 year after adoption of the directive.

There are three main problems with the ENVI position which amendments 297 & 356 look to rectify.

Installation size: by stating 20MW electrical the ENVI position raises the threshold by a factor of approximately three. 20MW electrical = 60MW thermal.

Exemptions: by excluding installations “converted from solid fossil fuels” from the high-efficiency cogen requirement –  the ENVI position opens the door to biomass conversions becoming a “quick-fix” for old and inefficient coal units. Biomass is a scarce resource and should be utilised in the most efficient manner. The text is intentionally vague and could allow an exemption for fossil fuel plants that have converted to just co-fire biomass  – this represents a thinly disguised subsidy to coal.

Provision delay: both the ENVI and the Commission text delay the adoption of the provision until 3 years after the directive comes into force. This is unacceptable. The delay allows member states plenty of time to put in place subsidy schemes to circumvent the new rules, reducing the effectiveness of the legislation.

For more information on the problems with biomass cogeneration and conversions, and how they are secretly subsidising coal, see our recent report Something Nasty In The Woodshed.